Retailers Pledge Stores for Food Deserts

Several food retailers have committed to open or expand 1,500 stores in underserved communities across the U.S. and to make affordable, healthier food options more accessible.

WASHINGTON — Several food retailers committed Wednesday to open or expand 1,500 stores in underserved communities across the U.S. and to make affordable, healthier food options more accessible.

Those commitments — contained in memorandums of understanding from Wal-Mart Stores [4], Supervalu [5] and Walgreen Co. — were announced by First Lady Michelle Obama [6] as part of her Partnership for a Healthier America initiative aimed at eliminating food deserts in the U.S. within seven years.

Obama also announced the formation of the California FreshWorks Fund, a $200 million public-private partnership designed to encourage California operators to offer healthy food options and to operate in underserved communities there.

Wal-Mart said it will open between 275 and 300 stores in food deserts by 2016; Supervalu said it will build 250 Save-A-Lot stores in underserved areas over the next five years; and Walgreen said it will expand food offerings to include more fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy options at approximately 1,000 stores following tests in Chicago and San Francisco — an increase from its commitment in January to 300 to 500 locations.

Executives from three regional supermarkets also made commitments, including Gregory Calhoun, president and CEO, Calhoun Markets, Montgomery, Ala., who committed to opening 10 stores in underserved areas of Alabama and Tennessee; Marshall Klein, president and CEO of Klein's Family Markets, Philadelphia, who disclosed plans in March to open a store in the Howard Park section of Baltimore, working with fellow Wakefern [7] member Jeff Brown, owner of Brown's Super Stores, Belmawr, N.J., who committed his community development group, Uplift Solutions, to work with Klein.