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The Fresh Grocer has joined forces with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to increase access to healthy, affordable food in currently underserved Philadelphia-area communities by opening five new full-service supermarkets over the next five years. The Drexel Hill, Pa.-based grocer revealed its development plans this week at PHA’s inaugural Childhood Obesity Summit in Washington.
The five new stores will offer a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy and fresh prepared foods, serving about 795,000 people and creating around 1,000 jobs.
In October of next year, The Fresh Grocer is scheduled to open the first of these new locations in the New Brunswick Wellness Plaza in New Brunswick, N.J., in a community that hasn’t had a full-service supermarket in more than 20 years. The $114 million project is a partnership among the grocer, the city of New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Development Corp. (Devco), the New Brunswick Parking Authority, and Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) University Hospital.
The first floor of the 625,000-square-foot Wellness Plaza will feature a 48,000-square-foot Fresh Grocer supermarket and an aquatic center. The second floor will house the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Wellness Center, operated by the hospital, which will offer reduced membership fees to local residents. As well as improving food access, the project is creating 350 construction jobs and will bring 320 permanent jobs to the area.
Another location, in Washington, is slated to bow in late 2013 or early 2014, a company spokeswoman told Progressive Grocer.
“By opening five new stores over the next five years in areas in and around food deserts, we will give close to 800,000 people throughout the Mid-Atlantic region access to fresh, healthy, affordable food,” noted Patrick J. Burns, president and CEO of The Fresh Grocer.
“Families can’t even consider eating healthier if they don’t have access to healthy, affordable foods,” added Lawrence A. Soler, CEO of Washington-based PHA. “Commitments like the one Fresh Grocer has made today are crucial to fighting obesity in this country and can make a dramatic difference in the lives and the health of our children and communities.”
Reaching out to underserved area is nothing new for The Fresh Grocer. In 2009 alone, the company opened two new supermarkets in Philadelphia, one in August 2009 near La Salle University and the other in December 2009 at Progress Plaza, the United States’ oldest African-American-owned and -operated shopping center, putting an end to two of the city’s biggest food deserts and creating more than 400 local jobs. The grocer now employs more than 1,200 people and serves about 1.1 million shoppers throughout the greater Philadelphia area.
Dedicated to working with the private sector to ensure the health of American youths by solving the childhood obesity crisis, the nonpartisan, nonprofit PHA was created in 2010 in conjunction with -- but independent from -- First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative.
The Fresh Grocer currently operates seven stores in Philadelphia, Philly suburb Drexel Hill, and Wilmington, Del.
In related news, Philadelphia will also see the official opening of the newly renovated ShopRite of Cheltenham on Dec. 14. Owned by Jeff and Sandy Brown, who have done extensive work with PHA and Let's Move in the Philadelphia area, and described as "the first of its kind," the store will feature an Einstein FastCare clinic. Other unique store features will be live fish and expanded general merchandise for Muslim customers, Jeff Brown told PG.
White House chef Sam Kass, who is active in Let's Move activities, will attend the ceremony. After the ribbon-cutting, attendees will be able to sample store-made specialty offerings.