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KAI RYSSDAL: Michelle Obama took a trip to the grocery store today. She went all the way to in Philadelphia to do that. The First Lady was greeted with chants of “we love you” during her visit to a part of the city that she says hasn’t had a decent supermarket for 10 years. Now, though, there’s a new 46,000-square foot Fresh Grocer in North Philly, in a neighborhood where people once had little choice but to shop at convenience stores and gas stations.
The Obama administration’s new budget plan aims to fix that problem nationwide, as Marketplace’s Bob Moon reports.
Bob Moon: Mrs. Obama says she couldn’t imagine the challenge that a mother in the neighborhood she visited today had to struggle with for at least a decade.
Michelle Obama: That means she would have to get on a bus, navigate public transportation with big bags of groceries, probably more than one time a week — 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 hailed a Pennsylvania program aimed at attracting new grocery stores to both urban and rural areas through special financing and tax incentives.
Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder of the group Policy Link, one of the originators of the idea. She says the program has brought lots of neighborhoods lots of new choices.
Angela Glover Blackwell: Eight-three new or improved grocery stores in under-served communities, 400,000 residents now have access to healthy food in their neighborhoods that didn’t have it before and a huge bonus is that 5,000 jobs have been created or retained.
The Obama administration’s proposed budget includes $400 million for a nationwide Healthy Food Finance Initiative. The new program is aimed at reducing the problem of obesity that’s twice as prevalent in poor areas. But it’s biggest challenge may be overcoming the perception that stores in inner cities can’t be profitable.
Here in Southern California, the Fresh and Easy chain has found the opposite is true. Spokesman Brendan Wannacott says the chain is succeeding in several previously under-served L.A. neighborhoods.
Brendan Wannacott: Across the board, sales of fresh produce, fresh meats and our fresh-prepared foods have been very high, and it’s filled a very big need in these communities.
In Los Angeles, I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.
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