CHERRY HILL'S Jeff Brown will be sitting with first lady Michelle Obama tonight at President Obama's State of the Union address. Brown, who owns 10 local ShopRite supermarkets, has been discussing with the White House ways to expand the Fresh Food Funds Initiative, which he helped found.
FFFI is a public-private partnership involving the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, the Reinvestment Fund and the Food Trust that provides grants and loans for grocery-store development in areas where markets are needed.
"There are so many Americans who don't have access to fresh food," Brown said yesterday.
In July, Adolfo Carrion Jr., director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs; Commerce Secretary Gary Locke; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak, and Ron Sims, deputy housing secretary, came to Philadelphia to study FFFI. They met with a group that included Brown; state Rep. Dwight Evans, a founder of FFFI; Mayor Nutter; Jeremy Nowak, of the Reinvestment Fund; and Yael Lehman, of the Food Trust.
We wouldn't be surprised if Brown and the FFFI get a shout-out from President Obama during tonight's speech. Why? Because when he was invited to attend the address, the White House asked if Brown would be comfortable talking with reporters afterward. Why would reporters want to interview him if he hadn't been mentioned in the speech?
We asked Brown yesterday if he had been practicing sitting and then quickly standing, as standing ovations are known to happen repeatedly during State of the Unions. "I'm a quick learner," Brown said, with a laugh.
- Dan Gross