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Michelle Obama Christens Inglewood Fresh Market

Benjamin Gottlieb |
February 1, 2012 | 3:02 p.m. PST

Executive Editor

First Lady Michelle Obama joined Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other local politicians to mark the opening of a new, health-conscious supermarket in Inglewood Wednesday morning, the first tangible result of a $264-million state fund bringing affordable and healthy food to California's underserved communities.

Standing before a backdrop of neatly displayed produce and marketplace decor circa-1950, the First Lady christened the new Northgate Market, which plans to employ 200 workers when it opens its doors at the end of this year.

"I believe every family in this country should have access to healthy food," Obama said to a select crowd of investors, local politicians and members of the media. 

The Inglewood location is one of three Northgate Markets being financed by the California FreshWorks Fund, which has committed nearly $20 million to the company.

Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb
Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb
The fund is modeled after the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which aims to bring healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America. It also falls under the arm of the First Lady's 'Let’s Move!' campaign to combat the childhood obesity epidemic plaguing the United States.

Northgate Markets recently opened a location in San Diego, and will use funds to launch two more stores in South Los Angeles, including the Inglewood branch, said company co-owner Oscar Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said the new market in Inglewood will provide an affordable, healthy alternative to the food outlets currently serving the area.

"It is our responsibility to understand our local communities and their needs," he said. "This store will definitely have a much wider variety of healthy choices for our customers."

Outside the event, members of the community hugged the fence surrounding the mostly empty supermarket, hoping to catch a glimpse of the First Lady.

Ellen Reese, 65, said she was very pleased with Obama's dedication to bringing healthier food options to her neighborhood. 

"So many people in this community do not eat healthily. Everything is fast food," Reese said, flanked by her granddaughter. "It's good for children to learn to eat healthy."

But not all of the Inglewood residents were happy with Obama's brief and unannouced appearance. Jose Alejo was among those not allowed to attend the event without being cleared in advance by the White House Press Office.

"It would have been nice to at least get an invite to an event in your own backyard," said the recent UC Davis graduate, pointing to his family's house across the street.

Alejo said the old supermarket on the corner of Prairie and Lennox avenues had been closed for almost two years. For many of his neighbors, this meant walking more than two miles to the nearest supermarket.

"Let us hear what you have to say," Alejo said. "After all, this market is in our community."


To reach Benjamin Gottlieb, click here, or follow him on Twitter: @benjamin_max.



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