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.