Making good on its goal to bring healthy foods into poor neighborhoods, Obama administration officials on Friday laid out the details of the $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
The initiative, which dovetails with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign to battle childhood obesity in the United States, will provide financing and technical assistance to companies that bring healthy foods to urban and rural communities in dire need of nutritious alternatives, according to the Associated Press.
The initiative, a partnership between the departments of the U.S. Treasury, Agriculture and Health and Human Services, was launched in Philadelphia by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the wire service said.
Efforts will include developing and equipping grocery stores and other small businesses and retailers selling healthy food in communities that currently lack these choices. These low-income communities, often referred to as "food deserts," are usually populated by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer little or no fresh produce. Lack of healthy, affordable foods can contribute to obesity and the diet-related diseases that follow, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The goal is to reach all of these underserved communities, creating new jobs in the process, within seven years, administration officials noted.
"Our effort to improve access to healthy and affordable food is a critically important step toward First Lady Michelle Obama's goal to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation," said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "The Healthy Food Financing Initiative will enhance access to healthy and affordable choices in struggling urban and rural communities, create jobs and economic development, and establish market opportunities for farmers and ranchers."
An estimated 23.5 million people, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income areas where they are more than a mile from a supermarket. Of the 23.5 million, 11.5 million are low-income individuals in households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the poverty line, government statistics show.