In response to Michelle Obama’s vigorous campaign against childhood obesity, Wal-Mart announced that it will drop prices on fruits and vegetables and make thousands of its packaged items lower in fat, sodium and sugar. This is the first time that Obama has put her support behind the work of one company.
Wal-Mart’s focus is on its house brand, Great Value, but the company also says that it will press its major suppliers, like Kraft, to emphasize health in the same way. The changes will be introduced over a period of five years, which Wal-Mart says will give its consumers time to get used to the changes. The slowness of the timeline has been criticized, however, by organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The executive director said that he wished the timeline were speedier, and added that the sugar reductions could be “much more aggressive.”
The company says that it will also try to address so-called “food deserts” – a name for the lack of grocery stores selling fresh produce and fruits in urban areas like Anacostia in Washington, DC. And apparently, if the project is successful, Americans who shop at Wal-Mart could save up to $1 billion per year on fruits and vegetables alone.
That seems like the most important step to me – although it’s important to cut down on sugars, sodium, and other harmful elements of packaged foods, people need to have access to affordable fruits and vegetables in addition to making packaged food healthier. It will be interesting to see how successful Wal-Mart’s attempts are – it’s heartening to see that Michelle Obama’s program will result in healthier food options for more Americans, but it will take time to see whether these changes have a serious impact. And it’s also important to remember that whatever changes happen must be environmentally sustainable.
Photo from Marines.mil.