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First Lady: Let's Move Fruits And Veggies To 'Food Deserts'

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Today, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that several major retailers, foundations and small businesses have committed to bringing healthier food to neighborhoods where supermarkets are scarce.

But she knows it’s not going to be easy. If you have kids, you know that given the choice of Kit-Kats or kiwis, kids will pick usually pick the candy. But today’s target is the parents living in so-called “food deserts.”

“If a parent wants to pack a piece of fruit in a child’s lunch... they shouldn’t have to take three city buses,” Mrs. Obama said during a press conference today.

As part of her Let’s Move campaign, the First Lady wants to help families make better choices — especially the 23.5 million Americans living in largely urban, low-income areas where access to healthy food can be spotty.

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity has identified this challenge of bringing more nutritious, affordable foods to so-called food deserts as one of the key pillars to solving the epidemic.

“We can give people all of the information in the world about healthy eating... but if parents can’t buy the food they need to prepare those meals... if their only options for groceries are in the corner gas station or the local mini mart, then all of that is just talk... and that’s not what Let’s Move is about,” she said.

The new initiative builds on a pledge announced in January with Walmart. The nation’s largest food retailer says it knows firsthand how important access to goo food is. “We will use our position to reduce the cost of an increase access to healthy foods,” wrote Chad Mitchell on the Walmart community blog.

Walmart pledged today to open up to 300 stores in food deserts by 2016, but other giant retailers are involved, too. Walgreens says it will start offering whole fruits and vegetables, SUPERVALU is building 250 new stores, and various smaller groups are joining forces and money in the effort.

The White House admits that no single initiative is a magic bullet. And the goal of melting some inches off our collective waistline is complicated.

Consider the study published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which blames the easy access to fast food options for obesity problems, rather than a lack of stores selling healthy food.

Yet another recent study from the University of Maine finds easy access to junk food doesn’t appear to affect students’ body mass index.

But making the healthy stuff easier to get may be a good start.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

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