ARLINGTON, Va. â The Food Marketing Institute here supports working with President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in understanding the challenges retailers face when trying to enter an underserved rural or urban area, said Jennifer Hatcher, FMI's group vice president of government relations.
Michelle Obama recently launched âLet's Move,â a program aimed at addressing childhood obesity that includes making more fresh food outlets such as supermarkets available in underserved communities, while the president recently called for more than $400 million in investments in new and expanded supermarkets in underserved communities, also known as âfood deserts.â
By helping the White House understand the challenges faced by food retailers, âwe are hopeful that the federal government will be able to assist our efforts by providing flexible options and solutions to address these problems,â said Hatcher. âIn order to successfully address the issue of access, there has to be a strong public-private partnership between all levels of government and private industry.â
Among the obstacles to opening stores in underserved communities, Hatcher listed the ability to acquire enough land to build a store, high cost of site preparation, local zoning and regulatory approval process, lack of existing infrastructure and high development costs. âOur industry is committed to its role of learning about the unique issues facing a community and working directly with that community to overcome the barriers to entry that may exist,â she said.
Last month, Michelle Obama, accompanied by U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited The Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza in Philadelphia to promote Let's Move.
The White House's Healthy Food Financing initiative to expand access to healthy foods in underserved areas is modeled after the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a community revitalization program designed to increase the number of supermarkets in lower-income areas across the state.
âWhat Pennsylvania has shown us is, if we provide the right incentives, people will invest in these neighborhoods,â Obama said.
The $15 million Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza that Michelle Obama toured was financed in part by funding from the state Fresh Food Financing Initiative as well as by other city, state and federal support.
For more on supermarkets' efforts to fight obesity, see Page 31