Friday, July 22, 2011 by Bryan Silbermann

White House announces private and public commitments to broaden availability of fresh produce

On Wednesday I was honored to join First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House for an announcement she called “a really big deal … a game changer for our kids and our communities all across this country … to make the healthy choice the easy choice.” Mrs. Obama highlighted the work of the new Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and shared the stage with retail executives whose companies have signed commitments to bring fresh and healthy foods into urban “food deserts,” including Wal-Mart, Supervalu, Walgreens and independents Browns, Calhouns and Kleins.

Together over the next five years, these six companies have committed to provide more than 10 million Americans with healthier, affordable foods as part of a national priority to address childhood obesity and build stronger communities around profitable supermarkets offering new jobs and healthier, more affordable food in economically distressed areas. Mrs. Obama called the companies’ commitments a sign that there is a new partnership between government and industry to move beyond the rhetoric and deliver access to healthier, affordable food. More companies are expected to follow.

The fresh produce industry has much to gain for this initiative to bring fresh, healthy foods – and more jobs– to so many Americans for whom a well-stocked supermarket is not a common sight. Think about what it means to have 10 million more Americans served by your supermarket customers. Consider PHA chairman Dr. James Gavin’s comment that 23.5 million Americans today don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables in their neighborhoods.

All of us in the produce industry should feel proud to be part of this change wave moving across the country, bringing our healthful, nutritious products to more places. We’re changing the way Americans view their food – and in doing so we’re driving economic growth too. This event demonstrates the growth of collaboration we have with government to improve both the health of our nation, and the health of our industry, through greater consumption of fruits and vegetables.

If you’d like additional information about the day’s events, download PMA’s press conference, and be sure to view photos and other related news from Reuters and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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