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Jeff Brown, an independent grocer, joined First Lady Michelle Obama last night for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address before a joint session of the US Congress.

According to a statement released by the National Grocers Association (NGA), of which Brown is a member, the grocer “received a call last Friday from the White House Office of Urban Affairs, extending the State of the Union invitation. The White House traditionally invites distinguished Americans to sit with the first lady and the president typically recognizes their accomplishments in the address.

“President Obama spoke about the need of building more supermarkets in impoverished areas, commonly called supermarket deserts because of the absence of stores large enough to sell fresh and nutritious food.  Brown has been working with the Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), a program initiated in Pennsylvania that combines state and private money that provides grants and loans for grocery-store development in areas where markets are needed. State Rep. Dwight Evans (D - Philadelphia) started the initiative in conjunction with two entities: the Reinvestment Fund, a community-development financial institution; and the Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization that works to improve access to healthy, affordable food, and to educate families about nutrition.”

Tom Zaucha, NGA’s president/CEO, said, “NGA applauds President Obama’s decision to highlight the work Jeff Brown has done with FFFI (which) is helping by offering residents a supermarket with fresh, high-quality nutritious foods and jobs in the community. He is a prime example of NGA’s Grocers Care Program, which was created in to recognize the important role community-focused retailers and the grocery industry as a whole play in their communities.” 
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