Michelle Obama on Mission for Healthier America

US First Lady, Michelle Obama has always been a vocal supporter of healthy eating and a green lifestyle. She has been a strong advocate of the campaigns to stop childhood obesity in the US and to bring healthy, fresh food within the reach of the majority of America’s poor. The ‘Let’s move’ campaign has signalled the Obama’s commitment to ensuring national health at affordable cost.

In this initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama is being joined by top executives from America’s grocery chains- Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Supervalu and other national and regional chains. More than 1500 retail stores will be opened or expanded to bring healthy food to the areas hitherto unserved by these corporate giants in the retail space.

This new initiative is likely to benefit nearly 10 million people in terms of services and create tens of thousands of new jobs. Wal-mart has committed to open 300 stores in the next 5 years and to price healthy foods retailed in its chain of stores within the reach of America’s poor. Walgreens is slated to expand its fresh fruit and vegetable counters to 1000 outlets.

The decision to serve America’s food deserts is likely to make fresh food available at reasonable cost to 23.5 million Americans. By definition, a food desert is a place where 500 people or 33 percent of the population live more than a mile away from a grocery store in an urban area or more than 10 miles away in a rural area.  Think of the joy it will bring to these populations when fresh, healthy food reaches them at reasonable rates!

Wal-Mart has planned to make food more affordable, reduce fat and sodium content in its packaged foods and carry more fresh fruits and vegetables at reduced prices. The company aims to have lowered sodium content by 25 per cent, sugar by 10 per cent and Trans fats by 100 percent by 2015 in all its packaged food products.

The First Lady’s concern arises out of her alarm at the growing incidence of childhood obesity in the US cutting across all demographics of geography and income. Michelle Obama feels that with increasing awareness of the need to eat healthy, America needs to provide its people with options to buy affordable, healthy food at convenient locations.

Wal-Mart’s support for the First Lady’s viewpoint was expressed by Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart in these words: "No family should have to choose between food that is healthier for them and food they can afford”.

Mrs. Obama’s plan has drawn mixed reactions. On the one hand, Wal- mart and others are likely to create many part time and full time jobs with their expansion plans. This is likely to benefit low income groups and encourage shoppers to choose groceries instead of fast food. The lowered prices will ease the financial burden on low income families. On the other hand, local retailers are wary of losing business to large retailers as they would not be in a position to match the very low prices offered by retail giants. Wal-Mart has also drawn flak from Labor Unions for its unfair labor practices.

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