Friday, March 4, 2011

Michelle Obama's Wal-Mart Endorsement

The first lady's gotten a lot of flack recently about her Let's Move campaign in general and specifically about her decision in January to partner with Wal-Mart to offer healthier and more affordable pre-packaged foods.

Wal-Mart is a giant corporation, and of course there is some risk that this partnership will undermine other issues, like fair market values and fair labor practices. This might be a controversial position to take, but we at Organic Fresh Fingers support the First Lady's actions. We agree that until major companies like Wal-Mart start committing to change, healthy options won't reach the general public.

Change like that won't come if companies don't profit from making their food healthier and more affordable. A huge market player like Wal-Mart could be just want this movement needs. If Wal-Mart demands that their suppliers make their products healthier while still keeping costs down, chances are that will have a ripple effect on grocery store chains across the country. For example, when Wal-Mart demanded that containers for large products like laundry detergent be shaped more efficiently for shipping and shelf-storage, pretty soon all grocery stores started carrying those same sized products. Like it or not, the choices Wal-Mart makes affect us all.

That's why we think it's so great that Wal-Mart is making this change. We can't continue to fight with industry leaders - we need to find a way to work with them. An article on The Indypendent's website points this out in terms we can all understand:

“Hating the food industry is not an option,” says Shiriki Kumanyika, a public health advocate and scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the African American Collaborative Obesity Network. “The question is, how do you work with the food industry so that they can make a profit, but still sell us food that is more likely to promote health and less likely to promote obesity?”

The “huge victory” Obama championed in the Wal-Mart announcement is creating viable choices for informed consumers. She and others have argued that communities can only win if there is cost parity between healthy food and the high-calorie snacks that contribute to obesity. “If you have a dollar menu item and a healthier salad that costs three times as much, it’s not a choice for people living on a limited income,” says Antronette K. Yancey, co-director of the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity.

Yancey also emphasizes that it’s not just families who have to make these choices—budget-strapped schools and city-run summer camps also must make cost-effective food purchases for children. Getting the food industry to self-regulate sugar and sodium has long-term benefits; getting a company as large as Wal-Mart on board might just trigger other manufacturers to follow suit, which leads to a marketplace with more healthier options, at a fair price to consumers. Even though consumers are ultimately responsible for the decisions they make, giving them the ability to make those decisions without economic repercussions makes good ones more likely. - "Is Michelle Obama's Wal-Mart Endorsement a Healthy Idea?" - The Indypendent.

So even though we don't agree with all of Wal-Mart's decisions, we can still get on board and support Mrs. Obama in her partnership with Wal-Mart. We need more companies who are at least willing to begin making changes toward healthier, affordable options.

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