First Lady in Chicago to Fight Food Deserts

October 26, 2011

Michelle Obama came home Tuesday on her first official business trip to Chicago since becoming the First Lady.

Mrs. Obama was in the Windy City to bring attention to her healthy eating campaign with a focus on food deserts, which are neighborhoods that have little or no access to fresh and healthy food stores.

The First Lady appeared on the South Side at a Walgreens that sells fresh produce in the Chatham neighborhood with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the President’s former chief-of-staff, eight other big-city mayors and CEOs of food retailers.

A reported 383,954 Chicagoans live in food deserts, and about a third of those are children. According to a report by Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group released this week, that is a 39 percent decrease over the population of 632,974 Chicago residents that lived in food deserts in 2006.

Nationwide, about 23.5 Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income areas that qualify as food deserts.

First Lady Michelle Obama discusses the importance of healthy eating at a South Side Walgreens in Chicago.

“We can talk all we want about making healthy choices about the food we serve our kids, but if parents don’t have anywhere to buy those foods, then that’s all it is — it’s just talk,” said Michelle Obama in Chicago. “Imagine what we could achieve if mayors across the country started taking on this issue. Think about all the jobs we could create, all the neighborhoods we could begin to transform and what it means when our children finally get the nutrition they need to grow up healthy.

“I am confident that — one neighborhood, one community, one city at a time — we can ensure that all our kids have the happy, healthy futures they deserve.”

In Chicago under Mayor Emanuel, who vowed to eliminate city food deserts during his mayoral campaign, zoning ordinances were revised last month to make way for city farms and to create more opportunities to sell locally grown produce.

And, in association with Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, many grocery retailers agreed over the summer to open or expand 1,500 food desert locations over the next five years, including Deerfield-based Walgreens.

The South Side Walgreens in Chatham is one of the company’s newest locations to sell produce.

Mrs. Obama next Chicago stop on her trip was to Iron Street Farms, a 7-acre urban farm in Bridgeport that grows produce year-round. It is the largest farm in the city.

The First Lady’s evening focused on her husband’s agenda, as she attended a presidential campaign fundraiser at Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union Hall.

Tickets for the event started at $100 and went up to $10,000, which reportedly included a picture with the First Lady.

No doubt there was plenty of nutritious foods at the event.

Categories: Events, In the City

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