Obama Once Needed 'to Take a Subway or a Bus Just to Find a Fresh Piece of Fruit’

By Penny Starr | April 18, 2012 | 1:46 PM EDT

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke at the NAN conference on April 13, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - Barack Obama's vision as president is shaped by the fact that he knows what "it's like to take a subway or a bus just to find a fresh piece of fruit in a grocery store," Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said last week.

Donovan seemed to be suggesting that the president had once lived in what First Lady Michelle Obama now refers to as a "food desert"--a place without a nearby supermarket.  The First Lady has launched an initiative to eliminate these places.

“Why has all this work been such a priority for the president and every one of us in the administration?” Donovan said. “Because he knows what you know: He knows what it’s like to walk the halls of public housing because he’s worked there.”

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“He knows what it’s like to walk the streets of some of our cities’ poorest neighborhoods because he’s lived there,” Donovan said. “What it’s like to take a subway or a bus just to find a fresh piece of fruit in a grocery store.”

Donovan also said the president had to “wonder” about whether he could “afford a college education or decent health care” or be “judged” unfairly.

“And [Obama] knows what it’s like to be judged not on your merits or your talent but because of where you come from, what your name is or even what you look like,” Donovan said.

Donovan made his remarks last week as one of the featured speakers at the 14th annual convention of the National Action Network (NAN), which was founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, who is also its current president and who hosts a show on MSNBC entitled “Politics Nation.”

In March 2010, Mrs. Obama announced what she called a $400-million-per-year Healthy Food Financing Initiative to eradicate "food deserts" in the United States.

"Right now, 23.5 million Americans, including 6.5 million kids, live in what we call 'food deserts," Mrs. Obama said in a March 10, 2010 speech. "These are areas without a supermarket. And as a result these families wind up buying their groceries at the local gas station or convenience store, places that offer few, if any, healthy options."

Mrs. Obama said her goal was "to eliminate food deserts in America within seven years."

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