Chicago Sun-Times
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Michelle Obama on "food deserts"


First Lady Michelle Obama was in Philadelphia on Friday as part of her "Let's Move" childhood obesity project, finding out how the city solved the problem known as "food deserts." Click after the video for Mrs. Obama's discussion about food deserts with Fox News Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor.

MR. HUCKABEE: When you say "food desert," define that for me.

MRS. OBAMA: This is areas where there's no access to a grocery store. So there are places, like in the community that we visited in Philadelphia, they hadn't had a grocery store in their community in a decade. Now, you think about a decade of a community. So that means that if a mom in that area wanted to make a salad for their kid, right, even if she was geared up to do it, that means she would have to get in a cab, take a bus, get on a train to get to a grocery store to do that.

And you just sort of think of families that are busy, they don't have resources, they just don't do it. So we have to eliminate food deserts. And one of the goals of Let's Move is to eliminate food deserts in this country in seven years. Ambitious goal, but I think we can do it if we work together.

And Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is a model. They essentially have started a healthy food financing initiative, where they take a modest investment and they leverage that to create an incentive for local businesses to locate in underserved communities. And we visited this beautiful store where they did just that. This community that hadn't had a store in 10 years now has a fresh grocer there, beautiful store. It's employing local community members. And it's created an economic engine in an underserved area. So it's a hub for other businesses to come in.

So the point is, if we can do that in Philly and we do that in Pennsylvania, because they're implementing this all throughout the state, then perhaps this is a model that we can look at for the rest of the country.

So Let's Move, a piece of that, is creating a healthy food financing initiative, investing $400 million to try and leverage some additional resources for states and communities that want to replicate that. So it's giving governors and mayors some support to figure out, how do we attract more grocery stores here? How do we change the mind-set?

Because it's really not about just what our kids eat, it's also about what their communities are like. You know, you can't live in a community that doesn't have food in it, right? I mean, that's the basic foundation.


I am so proud of the First Lady and her efforts to eliminate food deserts, shows me that she is very much connected with the working people. This initiative will change many families and children's lives, for generations to come.

I too, am proud of our First Lady and her concern about areas without access to healthy foods.
Food is a basic need and to think our land of plenty now can use the term "food desert" and it apply to many, many areas in our country is unacceptable. We have to solve this, if we are going to improve the health of our families.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 24, 2010 4:58 PM.

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