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Michelle Obama visits The Fresh Grocer

by | February 21, 2010
PHILADELPHIA --- First lady Michelle Obama delighted customers and employees when she visited The Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza Friday afternoon, Feb. 19, accompanied by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The first lady was in town to outline her "Let's Move" campaign to reduce childhood obesity nationwide.

The "Let's Move" campaign focuses on four key points: to give parents the support they need to make better food choices; to provide healthier food in schools; to help kids be more physically active; and to make healthy, affordable food available in every part of the country. The first lady stressed that without the fourth element, this initiative will not be able to succeed, which explains why the Obama administration has approved the $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities.

The Healthy Food Financing is modeled after the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a community revitalization program championed by Pennsylvania Rep. Dwight Evans that increases the number of supermarkets in lower-income areas across the state.

"What Pennsylvania has shown us is, if we provide the right incentives, people will invest in these neighborhoods," Ms. Obama said in a Feb. 19 press release. "We want to replicate your success in Pennsylvania all over America."

The $15-million Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza that Ms. Obama toured was financed in part by funding from the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative as well as by other city, state and federal support. Prior to the new Fresh Grocer opening in December 2009, the north Philadelphia neighborhood where the store now stands had been without a supermarket for over a decade. Ms. Obama was impressed with the store and commended The Fresh Grocer and the organization's president and chief executive officer for their efforts.

"This is one of the proudest moments of my life to have the first lady standing behind my mission," Patrick J. Burns, president and CEO of The Fresh Grocer, said in the press release. "She's a mom. She food shops. She gets it."

Ms. Obama toured the store with Mr. Burns by her side pointing out features unique to The Fresh Grocer, like its new "Kids Corner" located in the prepared foods department. The brightly colored, kid-friendly area is dedicated to promoting healthy eating. Selections include a variety of nutritious snacks and lunches for kids. "It's our way of making healthy eating fun," said Mr. Burns.

The first lady also stopped by the hot foods department, salad bar, expansive produce department, and even picked up a strawberry banana smoothie at the smoothie bar. "I have my own money," she told the smiling worker and then paid for her drink.

"This is truly a banner day for The Fresh Grocer, and we can't thank the first lady enough for her time, support and passion to put an end to childhood obesity," Mr. Burns concluded in the release. "The Fresh Grocer will do all we can to help her achieve her goal."

The Fresh Grocer currently has 10 locations operating in the Greater Philadelphia area with seven stores in the city of Philadelphia.