First Lady Michelle Obama funds initiative to bring fresh food to low-income communities

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama will announce a program to fund a healthful food financing initiative with the goal of attracting grocery stores to low-income communities in California. The California FreshWorks Fund is a $200 million program made up of money from the California Endowment and even some Wall Street banks.

Similar programs exist in New York City and Pennsylvania to ensure that people who live in low-income communities have access to healthy food options. Without these kinds of programs, many in those communities have very little access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. In so-called “food deserts,” grocery stores are far away and the only options for food purchasing are often bodegas and corner stores that sell fewer fresh and non-processed foods.

Another benefit is that the fund will finance both large and small grocers so it does not simply bring the arrival of stores like Walmart, but also smaller independently owned stores.  The goal is to spur economic development in these areas, as well as improve access to fresh food.

There is still a long way to go. In California, nearly 4.4 million people still do not have access to healthy food options. 10 percent of the country is considered a food desert by the Department of Agriculture. This new program goes along with the First Lady’s other initiatives, like Let’s Move and the White House garden, which are intended to address the issue of childhood obesity in America, particularly among low-income communities of color.

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  • Critter

    I love the idea of getting local food to low-income people, but Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity programs have been rife with really nasty fat-shaming. I’m also concerned with the involvement of Wall Street banks…but that’s the breaks of capitalism, I suppose.

    • Tori

      I’ve had the same concerns.

      At least I can say now that I’m glad the movement is “putting its money where its mouth is” by trying to increase access to healthy and whole foods. That at least is a good thing.

      • Matthew T. Jameson

        I’m curious, and I don’t mean to ask this in a combative way, but what exactly in Mrs. Obama’s anti-obesity effort is fat-shaming?

        Part of the reason I ask this is that I sometimes feel like merely acknowledging the health risks and societal costs of obesity warrant the label, at least within the Feministing community and others like it. Is it possible to “address the issue of childhood obesity” without fat-shaming? Or is merely framing obesity as an “issue” tantamount to fat-shaming?

        Again, not accusing you of anything, but I’m curious as to what in her campaign warrants the label.

        • Critter

          Fear-mongering about obesity is fat-shaming. There’s nothing wrong with being obese and the “health risks” have been overstated by a health establishment that is extremely fat-phobic. Lots of socially sanctioned behavior has costs to society (playing contact sports like football, running marathons) have huge health risks and a large toll on society, but somehow “obesity” has become the enemy. That’s straight-up fat-phobia.

          • Matthew T. Jameson

            Sorry I didn’t see this earlier. So, it sounds like, for you, saying that being obese is bad for your health and has societal costs is fat-shaming. Is that right?

    • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

      Yeah, it’s the breaks of capitalism, but if it can at least improve the food desert situation (since there’s been historical accounts of grassroots movements attempting to alleviate urban hunger getting hassled. Food Not Bombs is the latest in the line.) If it can at least provide people some immediate relief, this would be good. Maybe the program will come to other states eventually, if it’s sucessful. New Yorkers are a little bit luckier in being able to access a neighborhood with better produce by subway, but price differences and transporting stuff is still an issue, especially I’d imagine, the more people in your family to feed.