- More than 23 million Americans – including 6.5 million children live in food desert─ areas that have limited access to healthy foods.
- The White House has partnered with major retailers to provide increased access to healthy foods for nearly 10 million Americans in underserved communities. Some of the largest U.S. grocers have declared their intention to join forces with First lady Michelle Obama to bring healthy food initiatives to food deserts. Walmart, the largest food retailer in the United States, Supervalu and Walgreen are 3 retailers who will spearhead the First ladies healthy eating initiatives.
- These three large store chains some regional store chains have committed to open and expand stores in neighborhoods that have limited or no access to healthy food and that usually rely on fast food, corner stores, or gas station concessions. More than 1500 stores will open or expand to provide access to fresh produce and healthy foods in so-called “food desert” parts of the country, where people lack access to grocery stores and their fresh produce and meats.
- Walmart alone plans to open 275 to 300 stores serving designated “food desert” areas by 2016. It has already opened 218 stores in such areas since 2007.Many retailers have already been opening stores and expanding food offerings in underserved areas. Supervalu already operates about 400 stores in areas some may consider food deserts, including five recently opened units on the Chicago’s South Side.
- More than 45 percent of Walgreen’s existing stores are in areas that do not have easy access to fresh food. Walgreen Co, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, committed to convert or open at least 1,000.
- “We can give people all the information and advice in the world about healthy eating and exercise, but if parents can’t buy the food they need to prepare those meals because their only options for groceries are the gas station or the local minimart, then all that is just talk,” Mrs. Obama said. “Today’s announcement means that more parents will have a fresh food retailer right in their community — a place that sells healthy food, at reasonable prices, so they can feed their families the way they want.”
- Walmart has repeatedly said they want to bring lower-priced fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods to food deserts. Besides, they would promote and cut prices on healthy food. “Food oasis” stores will be stocked with fruits, vegetables and other healthy fare.
- The introduction of farmers’ market at ‘food desert’ not only increases the availability and accessibility of healthy food , but also has a major impact on grocery prices in the neighborhood, which in one study decreased by almost 12% in 3 years.1
1. Larsen K, Gilliland J. A farmers’ market in a food desert: Evaluating impacts on the price and availability of healthy food. Health Place. Dec 2009;15(4):1158-1162.