by Marion Nestle
Jul 22 2011

Mrs. Obama’s food access initiatives: retailers say yes

Michelle Obama, who has made elimination of “food deserts” a cornerstone of her campaign to end childhood obesity, announced this week that several supermarket and drug store chains—Walmart, SuperValue, and Walgreens among them—have committed to finding ways to put healthier foods into low-income areas.

The USDA issued a press release and a fact sheet on the initiative.

This week, the Food Marketing Institute released “Access to Healthier Foods: Challenges and Opportunities for Retailers in Underserved Areas.”  The report summarizes the risks and benefits of locating grocery stores, describes how to get local governments to provide incentives, and gives some examples of success stories.

Mrs. Obama’s event was thoroughly covered by ObamaFoodorama, which notes that recent research suggests only minimal benefits from putting grocery stores into low-income areas and observes that it’s going to take a lot more than just better access to encourage people in underserved areas to eat more healthfully.

Some advocates worry that the access issue is being used as an excuse for large retail corporations to get a foothold in inner cities than it is for residents to have better food choice, and that an influx of big chains will put small grocers out of business.

Maybe, but I’m guessing that people who live in areas without decent grocery stores will be more than delighted to have them nearby, especially if the stores keep their promises to provide fresh produce.

Just for the record, the research on food deserts (or swamps as some prefer) makes it clear why this is an important issue:

Read, think, advocate!

  • Sarge

    30 year studies tracking actual residents, Greencon?!?!?!

    These are retail supermarkets you’re talking of building…in poverty stricken neighborhoods…many with ethnic populations celebrating strong heritages of food preferences different from yours and your yuppie grocer’s.

    30 years — ha, ha — you’ll be very lucky to get 30 months before your fancy new stores are empty and boarded up along with the rest of the strip malls.

    How ’bout you drop and give us 30, Greencon. Maybe it will clear your head?

  • cheryl

    Mrs. Obama has a lot of nerve to tell people to eat more vegatables. It is a well known fact that eating “healthy” is much more expensive. It is estimated that in order to meet the new guidelines you will have a 30% increase in your food bill.

    Sounds like Mrs. Obama is asking the people
    “WHY DON”T YOU JUST EAT CAKE?”

    wake up and smell the poverty!