The First Lady brings the fight for fresh food to Philly

    First Lady Michelle Obama was in Philadelphia Friday. She complimented Governor Rendell on his weight loss and applauded his state’s efforts to bring fresh food stores to low-income communities.

    First Lady Michelle Obama was in Philadelphia Friday. She complimented Governor Rendell on his weight loss and applauded his state’s efforts to bring fresh food stores to low-income communities.
    Photo: Michelle Obama chats with Fresh Grocer owner Pat Burns

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    Obama: I want to thank Governor Rendell, Mr. Svelte, every time I see him, he gets smaller and smaller. It’s a good thing.

    More than 23 million Americans live in a community without a fresh food supermarket nearby, and the First Lady says the childhood obesity epidemic won’t end until the U.S. eliminates those “food deserts.”

    Michelle Obama visited Fairhill Elementary School and toured the The Fresh Grocer at 15th and Broad streets. The supermarket opened in December. For a decade before that, Obama says, residents regularly bought their food at convenience stores and gas stations.

    Obama: So that means if a mom wanted to buy a head of lettuce to make a salad or have some fresh fruit for their kids lunch, that means she would have to get on a bus with big bags of groceries, or worse yet pay for a taxi cab ride to get to some other supermarket in another community just to feed her kids.

    The First Lady touted her husband’s new $400 million healthy food financing initiative. The administration will offer tax credits and grants to encourage investment in low-income neighborhoods.

    Obama says she has a four-step plan to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic — within a generation.

    Step One is to give parents better information.

    Obama: So we are working to provide better labeling for our food and encouraging our pediatricians to screen kids for obesity during well-child visits. But then to write a prescription for families when they identify a problem.

    Obama says the other steps in her “Let’s Move” campaign are: revamping school lunches, enlisting athletes to urge kids to be more active, and planting more fresh-food markets in urban areas.

    Obama said her national effort will take cues from Pennsylvania’s success.

    Obama: Six years ago this state decided to invest $30 million which has leveraged $190 million more from the private and nonprofit sector. And so far these efforts have financed 83 supermarkets, in 34 counties, bringing nutritious food to more than 400,000 people.

    During the grocery tour, the First Lady had a strawberry banana smoothie from at the Fresh Grocer beverage bar.

    The store’s executive vice president Grant McLoughlin says the grocer is part of the movement to bring new fresh food options to city neighborhoods.

    McLoughlin: We worked along with the city to identify some of these food deserts and took the opportunity to build stores where the chains wouldn’t normally build locations.

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