Monday, July 18, 2011

Let's Move!: First Lady Michelle Obama Will Announce New Food Access Initiative

UPDATE, July 20: All the details are here
First Lady Michelle Obama
will "make a major announcement regarding access to healthy, affordable food" on Wednesday, the East Wing says. Eliminating food deserts across the US within six years is a major goal of Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign, adopted after the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity identified improving access to healthy, affordable foods as one of the key pillars to ending childhood obesity in a generation. Experts and advocates on hunger issues, food access and food security have been invited to Washington for Mrs. Obama's afternoon event, as have food industry leaders.

"Studies show that communities with greater access to supermarkets consume more nutritious food," the East Wing noted in its advisory about Mrs. Obama's announcement. The Task Force report recommended "a comprehensive approach that mobilizes public and private sector resources to make the healthy choice the easy choice for all Americans." During a visit to Philadelphia, PA in February of 2010, Mrs. Obama announced the Administration's $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which was included in President Obama's budget for 2011. The program, funded jointly by Treasury, USDA, and Health and Human Services, was intended to make available financial and technical assistance to community development financial institutions, nonprofits, and businesses with "sound strategies for addressing the healthy food needs of communities."

The First Lady's announcement on Wednesday comes on the heels of a major study on food deserts and food access published on July 11 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study tracked the food purchasing habits of thousands of people in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland for fifteen years, and found that "greater supermarket availability was generally unrelated to diet quality and fruit and vegetable intake, and relationships between grocery store availability and diet outcomes were mixed."

According to USDA estimates, "23.5 million Americans – including 6.5 million children – live in low-income areas that lack stores likely to sell affordable and nutritious foods." View USDA's Food Desert Locator here.

Mrs. Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discuss food deserts in this 2010 video:



*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama