The commitments announced today will bring healthy affordable foods within reach of millions of Americans. I commend the industry leaders participating in today’s announcement and thank the Partnership for a Healthier America and First Lady Michelle Obama for their ongoing work to make our nation a healthier place. I call upon all leaders of the food and beverage industry to join this important effort to ensure that all families have access to affordable healthy foods.
Parents have a responsibility to teach healthy habits to their children and to serve nutritious food at home. But families can’t buy healthy food if it isn’t available to them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 23 million Americans live in food deserts, which it defines as low-income communities with limited access to supermarkets or large grocery stores. Some food deserts have no retail food sources at all. More commonly, they’re dominated by fast food restaurants and convenience stores—corner markets that may stock 30 varieties of chips and soda, but no fresh fruits or vegetables. In food deserts, it’s extremely difficult to maintain a healthy diet.
Bringing more grocery stores to underserved communities is a critically important step, but it’s not a silver-bullet solution to improving diets and keeping families healthy. Food pricing and quality matter, as do marketing, advertising and in-store promotions. And, of course, we can’t forget the other side of the energy-balance equation. That’s why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working to ensure that the places where children and families live, learn, work and play support access to affordable healthy foods and safe places to be physically active. We’re committed to these and other approaches as we work to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A.
President & CEO
First Lady Michelle Obama announces a plan to team with grocers and other retailers to bring healthy and affordable food to communities that typically have not had access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods. July 20, 2011.