Making Healthy Food Accessible & Affordable
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Mrs. Obama:
All right, Albalee, that applause was just as much for me as it was for your
wonderful introduction. (laughter) Wasn’t she? She did a great job, great job. (applause) Just know that we’re
all very proud of you, and we’re all very proud
of every single one of your classmates and every single
student here in the city of Philadelphia and the
state of Pennsylvania. I am so pleased to be
here today, so grateful. And thank you all for having me. Ever since July, when
Secretary Vilsack stopped — visited here, he has
not stopped talking — (laughter) — about his visit
here to Pennsylvania. (applause) No, really, I mean — and when I heard about it I couldn’t wait to get here. As we’ve been talking about the
garden and talking about this initiative, I’m like, I got to
see what’s going on in Philly, what’s going on in Pennsylvania. So I’m thrilled to finally have
the chance to come here and see for myself, and I want to thank
Secretary Vilsack not just for being out front on this issue
but for his leadership and work at the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. I also want to thank Secretary
Geithner also for joining us today. Both of them have just been
terrific resources and support, not just in the Cabinet but just
in everything that we’re doing. And I don’t think that many
Treasury Secretaries can claim childhood obesity as part
of their portfolio, right? (laughter and applause) It is pretty cool to have your husband’s Treasury Secretary enthusiastically a
part of this initiative. So I salute you for your work. I know your wife has a lot
to do with it, but that’s — (laughter) I also want to thank Senators
Casey and Carper as well for being here; Representatives
Brady and Fattah — I’m trying to make sure
I’m catching everybody. And Representative Schwartz for
joining us today and for their work on behalf of the people of
this state and for the people of Delaware. I want to thank Governor
Rendell, Mr. Svelte — (laughter) — looking good, who’s here. Every time I see him he
gets smaller and smaller. (laughter) It’s a good thing;
he’s looking good. And I also want to thank
his wonderful wife, Judge Marjorie Rendell. I’m going to see you all very
shortly tomorrow at the National Governors Association. Have to thank Mayor Nutter, who
still is getting the award for one of the best campaign
rallies we had here in Philly. He just blew out
the introduction, had everybody crying. (laughter) So thank you for your support
and your leadership here. Representative Evans, thank you
for your outstanding work to ensure that the kids across
this state can lead active, healthy lives. The work that you’ve done to get
this going has been tremendous. (applause and cheers) Yeah, stand up, gentlemen! (cheers and applause) And I also have to
recognize Pat Burns, who hosted us at the
Fresh Grocer today. (applause) Pat hosted us, just as Jeff
Brown hosted Secretary Vilsack and others at his
supermarket last summer. It was just wonderful tour,
a wonderful experience, and I commend both of you for
your leadership and for doing what’s best for the
people of this city. And I have to finally thank
a few others: the Food Trust. (applause) The Reinvestment Fund. (applause) And the Greater Philadelphia
Urban Affairs Coalition. (applause) You all have done extraordinary
and some could say revolutionary work here in this city. And as you all have
said consistently, you couldn’t do it
without each other. That has been the
resonating message. So you all should be very proud
to be highlighted here today for the work that you’ve done. It’s really groundbreaking, and
hopefully will set the tone for what we can do
throughout the country. Six years ago, when this city
had fewer supermarkets per person than almost anywhere
in America, all right, that was six years ago, when
many folks had no access to healthy foods; six years ago
many neighborhoods had alarming rates of obesity-related
conditions like heart disease and diabetes — the
folks in this city, you all could have decided that you had an unsolvable problem on your hands, right? You could have done that. You could have decided that
these problems were just too big and too complicated and too
entrenched and thrown your hands up and walked away. But instead you all took a
stand, a really important, collaborative stand. You decided first that no family
in this city should be spending a fortune on high-priced,
low-quality foods because they have no other options. You decided that no child should
be consigned to a life of poor health because of what
neighborhood his or her family lives in. And you decided that you weren’t
going to just talk about the problem or wring your
hands about the problems, but you were going to act. And that’s precisely the
kind of determination, the kind of commitment that we
need to address the epidemic of childhood obesity
in this country. And this issue is an issue
of great concern to me, and I’ve said this before,
not because I’m First Lady — or not just because I’m
First Lady of this country — but because I’m a mother, and
I care about my kids and I care about all of our kids. And I know that this issue is
a great concern to all of you, everyone around this country. We all care about our kids. That’s why last week we
enthusiastically and proudly launched “Let’s Move.” (applause) “Let’s Move” is a nationwide
campaign to rally this country around one single
but ambitious goal, and that is to end the epidemic
of childhood obesity in a generation so that the kids born
today grow up with a healthy weight. Simple but ambitious. So this is what we need to do. Let’s move to help families
and communities make healthier decisions for their kids. Let’s move to bring together
our governors and our mayors, our doctors, our
nurses, our businesses, our community groups, our
parents, teachers, coaches, everyone to tackle this
challenge once and for all. And let’s move to get our kids
what they need to succeed in life. Let’s move to ensure that they
have the energy and the strength to succeed in school and then
in the careers that they choose. Let’s move to ensure that they
can later live lives where they can keep up with their own kids,
maybe keep up with their own grandkids, and if
they’re blessed, maybe their great-grandkids. And “Let’s Move” is a simple
initiative with four parts. And Albalee very
well laid them out. (laughter) Good job. (applause) But let me repeat: First part,
let’s move to give parents the tools and the information they
need to make the healthy choices for their kids. So we’re working to provide
better labeling for our food and encourage our pediatricians to
screen kids for obesity during well-child visits, but then
to write a prescription for families when they identify a
problem with a step-by-step sort of process for what
they can actually do. And we started this wonderful
website called letsmove.gov to help provide tips and step-by-step strategies on eating well and staying active so parents don’t feel alone and isolated as they’re trying to
figure this out. Second part: Let’s move to get
more nutritious food in our schools. Secretary Vilsack said,
something he’s focused on. That’s why we’re working not
just with the Department of Agriculture but with food
suppliers, food service workers, school officials, and investing
billions of dollars to revamp our school breakfast and lunch
programs so that our kids are eating foods with less
sugar, fat, and salt, and eating more foods with fresh
vegetables and fruits and whole grains. It’s a good thing. (applause) The third part of the
initiative is: Let’s move. That’s literally let’s move. We got to move. We got to find ways for
our kids to be more active, both in and out of school. That’s why we’re expanding and
modernizing the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge. And we’ve recruited professional
athletes from all across this country who are just ready and
willing to encourage our kids to get and to stay active. And then finally, one of
the reasons why we’re here, the final component: Let’s move
to ensure that all families have access to healthy, affordable
food in their own communities. (applause) And the approach on this
aspect is very simple. We want to replicate your
success here in Pennsylvania all across America. Again, six years ago this state
decided to invest $30 million in fresh food financing, which has
leveraged $190 million more from the private and
non-profit sectors. And so far these investments
have funded 83 supermarket projects in 34 counties,
bringing nutritious food to more than 400,000 people. (applause) And, more importantly
in this economy, this investment is projected
to create more than 5,000 jobs. (applause) And these jobs are occurring
often in communities that need them the most. Across this state, right now,
because of these efforts, new employees are
learning new job skills. And I met many of them
at the Fresh Grocer. Just folks who were proud — proud to be in a store that was serving their community and proud to be doing a good job and have a chance to not just support their families but do something good for the
rest of their communities. (applause) But these new stores are
also bringing new economic development into
these communities, because they serve as anchors
to attract other businesses to invest, and creating
even more new jobs. So one good deed
leads to another. And we saw this example today
again during our visit to the Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza. As you all know, the last
supermarket that was in that community closed more
than 10 years ago. More than a decade ago. That was the last time that that
community had a grocery store. So this community went 10 years
without a place for folks to buy good food. For 10 years folks had to buy
their groceries at places like convenience stores
and gas stations, where usually they don’t have a
whole lot of fresh food, if any, to choose from. So that means if a mom wanted to
buy a head of lettuce to make a salad in this community, or have
some fresh fruit for their kids’ lunch, that means she
would have to get on a bus, navigate public transportation
with big bags of groceries, probably more than one
time a week, or, worse yet, pay for a taxicab ride to get
to some other supermarket in another community,
just to feed her kids. So let’s think about that. For 10 years in one community,
there were kids in that community who couldn’t get the
nutritious food that they needed during some of the most
formative years of their lives. And think about the impact
that that can have on a child’s health, not just now
but in the future, because research shows that
children who are overweight as adolescents are 70 to 80%
more likely to become obese as adults. And what happened in the
neighborhood that we visited today is happening somewhere
in every state all across this country. Right now there are
23.5 million Americans, including 6.5 million children,
who live in what we call “food deserts.” These are places and communities
that don’t have a supermarket. This is true in the inner
city and in rural communities. This is happening all
across the country. But fortunately, right
here in Philadelphia, you all have this wonderful
grocer named Pat Burns who had already opened successful
stores in other neighborhoods. And he decided that it was —
he was interested in opening a grocery store in Progress Plaza. (applause) But he could only do it because
of a grant from the Fresh Food Financing Initiative. And today, just a few
months after it opened — and this is important for
everybody to understand — the Fresh Grocer is doing
a thriving business. It’s a beautiful store,
attracting folks from neighboring communities and
providing jobs for folks in the area. In fact, during the big snow the
Fresh Grocer was able to stay open because so many of
the employees live nearby. So with your success
here in Pennsylvania, what you’ve shown us is that
when we provide the right support and incentives, then
business leaders like Pat Burns and Jeff Brown, they’re going to
take the chance to invest in our communities. And when we bring fresh,
healthy food to communities, what do we learn? People will buy it, right? People will buy it. These stores are
turning a profit. And what’s going on is that
they’re doing well by doing good. Isn’t that something? (applause) So it’s because of this example
that part of “Let’s Move” we created this Healthy Food
Financing Initiative that’s modeled on what’s
been going on here. And as Secretary Geithner said,
with a modest initial investment of about $400 million a year,
we’re going to use that money to leverage hundreds of millions
more from private and non-profit sectors to bring grocery stores
and other healthy food retailers to underserved communities
all across this country. If you can do it here, we
can do it around the country. (applause) And our goal is ambitious. It’s to eliminate food deserts
in America completely in seven years. (applause) Again, we know
this is ambitious, but we also know that tackling
the issue of accessibility and affordability is key to
achieving the overall goal of solving childhood obesity
in this generation. Because we can give our kids the
healthiest school breakfasts and lunches imaginable, but that
won’t mean much if they head to the corner store after school
and buy candy and chips and soda because that’s all they
have available, right? And we can create the best
nutrition education and physical education programs in the world,
but if dinner is something off of the shelf of a local gas
station or convenience store because there’s no
grocery store nearby, all our best efforts are
going to go to waste. We’re setting people up for
failure if we don’t fix this. So it’s clear that we
need a comprehensive, coordinated approach. But we also have to be clear
that that doesn’t mean that it requires a bunch of new laws and policies from Washington, D.C. I have spoken to many
experts on this issue, and not a single one of them has
said that the solution to this problem is to have government
telling people what to do in their own lives. It’s also not about
spending huge sums of money, particularly during these times,
when so many communities are already stretched thin. Instead, it’s about doing more
with what we already have. And as you’ve shown us
here in Philadelphia, it’s about smart investments
that leverage more investments and then have the potential to
pay for themselves many times over in the long run. What you’ve clearly demonstrated
here in this city and in this state is that we can do what’s
good for our businesses and our economy while doing what’s good
for our kids and our families and our neighborhoods
at the same time. We can do it all. (applause) And Jeff Brown put it best when
he talked about his decision to put a grocery store in
underserved communities. He said, “We have more
than the bottom” — “We have more than
one bottom line here.” You know, that’s important. He said, “We have more than
one bottom line here…the community’s success
is important, too.” That’s a wonderful spirit. (applause) And in the end, that’s what
this is all about, really — not just the kind of food
that we want our kids to eat, but it’s also about the kind
of communities that we want our kids to live in. And it’s about the kind of
lives that we want them to lead, right, all of our kids. We know it won’t be easy to
solve this obesity crisis, because these big
problems are never easy. We’re going to need a lot more
folks just like all of you to step up to the plate. This isn’t about the
First Lady doing it all. I can’t do it by myself. I’m going to need all of you. We’re going to have
to work together. But if there’s anyone out there
who doubts that it can be done, then I would urge them to come
here to Philadelphia and to see what you’ve done here. (applause) I would urge them to see the
difference that we can make when government and businesses and
community groups and ordinary folks come together to
tackle a common problem. It’s a powerful thing. I would urge them to imagine
what we can achieve if we take programs like this that have
lifted up so many communities here in Pennsylvania and then we
bring those programs and those efforts and those ideas to
every part of this country. Just imagine how many
jobs we can create. Just imagine how many
neighborhoods that we could revitalize and how many
lives could be transformed. You all are seeing that now. So let’s move. (laughter) That’s really the point. (applause) If we know it can be done,
let’s move, let’s get it done. Let’s give our kids everything
they need and everything they deserve to be the
best that they can be. Thank you all. This has been a wonderful day. Thank you so much. (applause)

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