Walmart Vows To Make Food Healthier and More Affordable

Yesterday Walmart announced a major initiative to provide customers with healthier and more affordable food choices. First Lady Michelle Obama, whose Let's Move campaign is collaborating with Walmart, called it "a huge victory for folks all across this country." What do you think? In short, the five elements of Walmart's Nutrition Initiative are as follows:
  • Reformulating thousands of everyday packaged food items by 2015, reducing sodium, sugars, and trans fats.
  • Making healthier choices more affordable, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Developing strong criteria for a front-of-package seal to help consumers identify healthier options.
  • Providing solutions to address food deserts by building stores in underserved communities.
  • Increasing charitable support for nutrition programs.

(Read the full announcement here.)

Our reactions have run the gamut, from cynicism to hopeful optimism. While our imagined perfect world looks very different from a Walmart-dominated one, the reality is that millions of Americans rely on Walmart. As the largest retailer of grocery products in the U.S., the company has the power to create real change not just for their customers, but the entire industry.

Since the announcement, there has been a slurry of posts from food and nutrition writers, many of whom also seem conflicted. Echoing our own thoughts, Grist's Tom Philpott points out that "To date, [Walmart's] dominance hasn't had a benign effect on the food system .... Public health, too, has suffered from the ubiquity of Walmart's superstores and their bounty of cheap, processed goods."

Public health expert Marion Nestle is also skeptical about Walmart establishing "its own nutrition criteria for judging its own products" but thinks "the most important of these initiatives is the one to reduce the price of fruits and vegetables."

However, over at The Atlantic, Corby Kummer reports that it doesn't sound like Walmart will actually be lowering prices on produce it already sells. Kummer's piece is definitely worth reading for a more in-depth look at the five parts of the initiative. Ultimately, he concludes that "Whatever you think about Walmart, it looks to be using its clout to help people who don't have the time, money, or opportunity to eat better."

What are your thoughts on Walmart's big announcement?

Related: Hold the Phone: Walmart to Start Carrying Local Produce

(Image: Flickr member mjb84 licensed under Creative Commons)

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