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Michelle Obama has made healthy eating one of her signature causes. One of the first places she turned to find a partner in her initiative might not seem obvious: Walmart. The retail giant has committed to reducing the salt, fat, and sugar in its foods, as well as dropping the prices of fruits and vegetables.

Many people avoid fresh produce because they consider it too expensive and harder to access. Furthermore, many prepared foods hide unhealthy ingredients, such as extra fats or sodium in rice, soup, canned beans, salad dressings, snacks, and potato chips. Walmart has proposed a seal that would standardize listings of salt, fat, and sugar content levels, making it easy for the average American to rate the healthiness of certain foods.

Beyond its own changes to the foods it produces, Walmart is encouraging vendors such as Kraft and ConAgra to follow suit. The encouragement is likely effective, considering that approximately 16 percent of Kraft’s sales move through Walmart. ConAgra Foods already has promised to reduce the sodium content in its foods by 20 percent by 2015.

But making food healthier is still a work in progress; consumers are the ones who have to realize that they want to buy healthy food.

Thus on further reflection, perhaps the partnership between Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and Walmart is a perfect fit. Obama wants to improve the way Americans eat, and Walmart sells the most food in the United States. The retailer also has the power and influence to encourage consumers and other retailers make changes.

Discussion Question: What are the benefits to partnering with Walmart?

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Wal-Mart Shifts Strategy to Promote Healthy Foods,” The New York Times, January 20, 2011.

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