Sam Kass: "Our message is that Mayors have a real responsibility here, and a real opportunity and ability to have a significant impact..."
UPDATE: CLICK HERE for a full post about the summit
First Lady Michelle Obama will be in her hometown of Chicago on Tuesday for the first-ever Let's Move! summit on food deserts, joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The East Wing has just released the names of the eight Mayors invited from across the country to participate in a roundtable on food access with Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass and other Administration officials. The Mayors come from both urban and rural communities; the White House says that 23.5 million Americans live in what USDA estimates is 6,500 food deserts in the continental US.
Kass told me in an interview that the White House has invited the Mayors in order to get insight into "what's happening on the ground" in their communities; there will be a discussion of community-based anti-obesity and food access policies that have worked and policies that have not.
"We're looking to highlight the role of Mayors and really identify the best practices they can have in their communities," Kass said. "Our message is that Mayors have a real responsibility here, and a real opportunity and ability to have a significant impact."
The invited Mayors: Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, MA; R. T. Rybak of Minneapolis, MN; Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, OK; Heather Hudson of Greenville, MS; Willis "Chip" Johnson of Hernando, MS; Manuel Lozano of Baldwin Park, CA; Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, WI; and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, MD.
Mayor Johnson and Mayor Curtatone joined Mrs. Obama at the White House on Feb. 9, 2010 for the official launch event of the Let's Move! campaign. Both spoke at the event.
"Without the support of Mayors, communities will not be able to overcome these challenges," Kass said.
It is Mrs. Obama's first trip to her hometown in which she will hold a public event as First Lady, and she will make remarks from a Walgreens store located at 11 East 75th Street in the afternoon. After, Mrs. Obama will tour Iron Street Urban Farms with Mayor Emanuel, a 7-acre site on Chicago’s South Side that "produces local, healthy, and sustainable food year-round," according to the East Wing.
Joining Kass and the Mayors for their discussion on access to healthy food will be Let’s Move! Executive Director Dr. Judy Palfrey, HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh and Matt Josephs with the US Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financing Initiative Fund.
In July, Mrs. Obama announced that Walgreens, as well as SUPERVALU, Walmart and independent regional retailers will be opening or expanding more than 1,500 stores to serve approximately 9.5 million people in communities that currently lack access to healthy and affordable foods, including fruits and vegetables. The Walgreens where Mrs. Obama will speak is one of ten prototype stores that has added fresh produce and other healthy foods to its offerings.
In the evening in Chicago, the First Lady will attend a fundraising event for President Obama's re-election bid.
Mayor Emanuel announced the First Lady's visit last weekend.
*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama