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Forget trying to wrap your head around a complicated bipartisan healthcare plan. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, along with Michelle Obama are doing something that actually makes good common sense. They are launching a $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) that will bring decent grocery stores into the inner cities.

“Food deserts,” or a lack of grocery stores selling affordable, good food, is a huge problem. Convenience stores and fast food restaurants on every corner (read: easy access to fries, shakes, potato chips, soda, candy bars, other crap) cannot sustain healthy, happy dinner tables. There have been all kinds of creative solutions to address this problem, from teaching inner-city kids how to grow their own food, such as Boston’s The Food Project, to trucking in more fresh produce, such as Detroit’s Peaches & Greens.

But kids can’t grow tomatoes all year round in Boston and food trucks have their limits. It just makes more sense to build better, more accessible grocery stores for those of us who live downtown and create jobs in the process. Bravo for a simple plan!

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I have been without cable for more than a decade so I haven’t yet fallen into the consuming habit of watching people make food on television. Across the United States, however, viewership is on the rise. When the season finale of “The Next Food Network Star” aired last August, 4.7 million viewers tuned in to watch.

The New York Times reports today that a second 24-hour food channel is set to launch in May. Really? I suppose another 24-hour food programs will justify those midnight snacks twice as much. (Wait until Michelle Obama hears about this!)

“We listened to the audience and realized they weren’t necessarily saying they just wanted more instruction or more reality or more travel shows. They just wanted more,” Michael Smith, the general manager of the Cooking Channel, told The New York Times.

More! More! More! Yes. Sounds like a true American audience.

As for me, my flat screen TV arrived on Saturday in time to watch Hannah Kearney win the first Olympic gold for the USA (her mom was my middle school gym teacher). There have been plenty of food references as part of the USA women’s ski team experience at Whistler and Cypress Mountain. Hannah is getting a Ben&Jerry’s flavor named after her. Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn has applied cheese to her injury. And snowboarder Hannah Teter has been pushing her family’s maple syrup every chance she gets.

I know what I’ll be watching once the Olympians have exited Vancouver. The Cable Guy comes this weekend. Food up!

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Assault on junk foods
The Obama administration is leading a charge this week with soon-to-be introduced legislation that will ban candy and sugary substances from many schools. The aim is to reduce obesity levels among children.

On Tuesday, Michelle Obama launched the “Let’s Move” campaign to promote more exercise and healthier eating for kids. Parents can download age-appropriate recipes on Letsmove.gov and find resources for developing more healthy lifestyles for their families.

Teens, of course, are rebelling. People make people fat, not vending machines, they claim. (more…)

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