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Michelle Obama teams up with Wal-Mart on healthy food initiative


First Lady Michelle Obama has, for the first time, teamed up with a single company, Wal-Mart, to roll out a new initiative yesterday that is intended to provide healthy and affordable food.

Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, and, though it’s known more for its retail, is actually now the country's largest grocer.

Some may find it ironic that the first lady teamed up with Wal-Mart, considering that during the 2008 campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama criticized Wal-Mart for not paying its employees a "living wage." “I won’t shop there,” he said, per the Chicago Tribune.

Michelle Obama, however was on the board of a Wal-Mart vendor, TreeHouse Foods, reported Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times. She resigned from the board just eight days after Barack Obama said he wouldn’t shop there.

Through the initiative, Wal-Mart pledged to reduce sodium, a catalyst to high blood pressure, by 25 percent and added sugars, one of the leading causes of diabetes and subsequently a growing health problem in the Unites States, by 10 percent over a five-year period. Over this period it will also work on development for front-of package seals to make healthier food easily identifiable, address food dessert issues, and increase support for nutrition programs.

On the longevity of the time frame and slow introduction of the changes, Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Wal-Mart, said the company wanted to make sure taste wasn’t adversely. Wal-Mart is also vowing price cuts on fruits and vegetables.

Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs Leslie Dach said the company has "not looked at this from an economic perspective" during a question-and-answer session following the launch yesterday. CEO and President Bill Simon noted, "Wal-Mart prices are on average between 10-15% lower than other stores."

Of what the White House has called "the first collaboration of this magnitude" the initiative directly correlates with the first lady's “Let's Move!” campaign to fight childhood obesity, one which she has vigorously been pushing resulting in both successes with the passing of the School Nutrition Act Reauthorization and the Health and Hunger Free Kids Act and also criticism -- most notably from Sarah Palin who argued the campaign reflects the "government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us."

"To say I'm excited is an understatement," Michelle Obama said yesterday, after revealing her initial fears when creating “Let's Move!” about whether or not the program could actually make a difference in fighting childhood obesity.

"It's not about government telling people what to do," Obama added. "It's about each of us in our own families, in our own communities, standing up and demanding more for our kids. And it's companies like Wal-Mart answering that call."

In concluding her remarks, the first lady called for other companies to follow Wal-Mart's example and help American families keep their children healthy.