Healthy food for urban areas

July 23, 2009 4:15:17 PM PDT
Some of President Obama's key cabinet members made a stop in Philadelphia to talk about efforts to bring fresh, quality foods to low income urban areas.Teens 4 Good harvested potatoes in North Philadelphia. The land is one of 7 trashed lots the high schoolers from across Philadelphia transformed into lush urban farms.

Their fruits and vegetables are sold to nearly a dozen local restaurants and at a city hall farmers market.

"In Philadelphia, there are a lot of restaurants like McDonalds and stuff and a whole lot of obese people in our city. This is healthy for them," Jamar Smith said.

Theirs is the type of project being examined by a delegation of President Obama's cabinet members who also toured a West Philadelphia Shoprite today.

"What's really exciting about this opportunity is linking local production to local consumption. That's how you retain wealth in a community and this is meeting the need of so many families that struggle to get wholesome nutritious food," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The Secretaries of Commerce, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development then held a town meeting with the Mayor and other local officials to highlight financial supports of grocery stores being built in cities and the need to make sure everyone has access to fresh foods in their neighborhoods.

"We can predict what illnesses people are going to have by zip code. We can tell what children are going to have tooth decay by zip code," Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ron Sims said.

The Philadelphia town hall kicks off a series of conversations about federal support of urban development to be held around the country.

"It's not just about food for your stomach. It's also about food for the souls of the city. It's about economic development, employment, reentry. It's about how we connect communities," Mayor Michael Nutter said.

Apparently, accessible supermarkets building in cities and the green work of teens like these may be a national model for bringing healthy foods into neighborhoods that were long barren of fresh goods.