Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted Obama administration efforts to increase access to healthy food in communities throughout the country by visiting the Fresh Moves Mobile Market Bus, a renovated Chicago Transit Authority Bus that brings fresh, affordable fruits and veggies to Austin and North Lawndale, two neighborhoods with limited access to fresh produce. Joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Vilsack commended the Mayor's commitment to healthy food access and announced USDA support for the expansion of mobile markets in Chicago and the Pacific Northwest, as well as a research project to assess the impact of mobile markets as a strategy to increase healthy food access in rural and urban communities.
"There are over 23 million Americans lacking access to fresh, healthy food with roughly 400,000 Chicagoans lacking access," said Secretary Vilsack. "Mobile markets are an innovative model to help bring healthy and nutritious food and fresh produce to people in their own communities -- whether urban or rural - often directly from the farmers who produce the food. Mayor Emanuel has shown he's committed to promoting healthy food access through innovative solutions -- solutions such as new farmers markets in underserved neighborhoods and mobile retail markets that bring healthy food directly to communities in need."
Chicago is one of the leading cities in tackling the issue of food access. In addition to helping Fresh Moves serve twice as many people with a second bus, USDA is supporting Gorge Grown Food Network, which provides access to healthy food in the rural Columbia River Gorge region of Oregon and Washington and is expanding to serve additional communities with its Veggie Express truck. These new services are being supported in part by $70,000 in USDA funding. Both the urban and rural projects will participate in research to evaluate and understand how they are impacting consumer behaviors attitudes toward healthy food choices in urban and rural areas that previously lacked access to healthy foods.
"It's absolutely unacceptable that nearly 400,000 Chicagoans live without easy access to fresh, healthy food, and I've committed to reducing that number during my first term. I thank Secretary Vilsack for recognizing the efforts Chicago is making towards this goal and for supporting innovative solutions, like the Fresh Moves mobile market program," said Mayor Emanuel.
USDA's support for mobile markets is just one of many steps that the Administration has taken to increase access to healthy food. USDA coordinates with federal partners and shares resources with Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Treasury, and others to identify successful strategies to increase healthy food access nationwide. Just last month, USDA announced $4 million to help States expand availability of wireless technology in farmers' markets not currently participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which will provide SNAP participants with greater access to fresh and healthy food while supporting American farmers and local economies. In April, USDA announced that it will invest in farm to school programs nationwide to help eligible schools improve the health and wellbeing of their students and connect with local agricultural producers. USDA is also working to implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which will mark the most comprehensive change to food in schools in more than a generation, including updated school meals nutrition standards to increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This month, USDA is also celebrating the first anniversary of MyPlate, which provides the public, particularly school children, with the 'how-tos' to put into action the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans' recommendations.