Retailers Plan to Bring Fresh Produce to 1,500 'Food Deserts'

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE | July 20, 2011 | 9:14 AM EDT

FILE- This Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 file photo shows first lady Michelle Obama as she exercises with a hula hoop during a healthy kids fair on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Wearing a belt, even if it doesn’t sit on the natural waistline, can help add feminine shape to an athletic body type, according to Adam Glassman of O The Oprah Magazine. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

The White House says several retailers, including Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Supervalu, have agreed to open or expand 1,500 stores in areas without broad access to fresh produce and other healthy foods.

Company executives were joining Michelle Obama for an announcement at the White House Wednesday.

The first lady is on a campaign to bring down childhood obesity rates. Increased access to fresh and healthy foods is part of that effort.

Studies have shown that limited access to healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, can lead to higher levels of obesity and diet-related diseases.

Wednesday's announcement is also being cast as a jobs creator. The White House says the retailers estimate the effort will create tens of thousands of jobs while serving more than 9 million people.