Say what you will about Wal-Mart — perpetrator of unfair labor practices and small business killers are just a few of the accusations regularly hurled at the retail behemoth — but they announced today that they’re taking a giant leap in the fight against childhood obesity. Cue a round of applause.
After discussions with first lady Michelle Obama, who has been on a crusade since her husband became president to end childhood obesity, the company announced a 5-year plan to lower the price on their fruits and vegetables and reduce the amount of salt, fat and sugar in their house brand packaged foods, Great Value.
Wal-Mart and the White House also announced they would pressure major food suppliers such as Kraft, which sells 16 percent of their products thought Wal-Mart, to follow their example. And Wal-Mart said they will be working to eliminate any extra cost for foods made with whole grains.
Wal-Mart is the single largest grocer in the country, and nutrition experts are saying these changes could have an enormous impact on the accessibility of nutritious food for American families.
On the flip side, some critics are charging Wal-Mart could actually reduce the sugar content of their food even more than the 10 percent that is planned, and that they could be making all the changes faster than over a 5-year period.
However, I find it hard to be critical of a plan that is a major example of a step in the right direction. It is the first time Mrs. Obama has thrown her support behind a single company, according to The New York Times. And when the nation’s largest grocer is signaling to families that their health matters so much that they’re willing to cut into their profits by lowering the price of produce (they won’t be asking farmers to supply fewer crops, although they do understandably hope to make up for the lost profits by selling a larger volume of fruits and vegetables since they will be more affordable), I think they deserve high praise.
Hopefully other grocers and food manufacturers will see fit to follow suit. Instead of pointing at the government, schools, parents, and teachers and accusing them of not solving the problem of how our children eat, one company is taking it upon itself to be proactive and help families make smarter choices about what to serve for dinner.
Forget the round of applause — I say let’s give Wal-Mart a standing ovation.
Image: Wikimedia Commons