Michelle Obama: Walmart Fulfilling Its ‘Moral Obligations’ by Selling Healthy Foods

By Fred Lucas | March 1, 2013 | 9:59 AM EST

Michelle Obama tours the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Springfield, Mo. on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.  (AP Photo/The Springfield News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

(CNSNews.com) – First lady Michelle Obama is praising what has often been one of the left’s biggest targets, Walmart, for helping to fight obesity and “food deserts” in the United States.

“At Walmart, you can believe that as America’s largest retailer, you have an obligation that goes far beyond the bottom line,” Obama said Thursday at a Walmart in Springfield, Mo.

“You know that every day, with the products you sell, you’re helping parents get by on a budget -- which is what everybody in this country is trying to do. You’re helping kids get the nutrition they need to learn and grow and fulfill their God-given potential and those aren’t just business opportunities. They’re moral obligations -- truly. They’re responsibilities to the health of our families and the future of our next generation.”

Mrs. Obama has made fighting obesity, particularly childhood obesity, her top cause as first lady. She talked about how Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has stepped up to offer healthier options, and she insisted that other retailers must do the same thing.

“In the coming months and years, we need more American businesses to step up and meet those responsibilities,” the first lady said. “We need more companies to do what Walmart has done -- to dig deep and to find new ways to make money by giving families better information and healthier choices.”

Many liberal organizations such as labor unions and President Barack Obama’s base, have long criticized Walmart for its non-union stores. A top donor to Obama’s campaigns, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) supported a nationwide protest against Walmart last November.

But on Thursday, Mrs. Obama was full of praise for Walmart:

“You have opened 86 new stores -- one of the most important calls, most important work to eliminating food deserts, because you’ve opened these stores, including this one, in underserved communities,” she said.

“And now you’ve launched your ‘Great for You’ seal that I got to see firsthand that helps customers immediately spot healthy items on the shelf -- so they don’t have to spend hours poring over those fine-print labels that you can barely understand to figure out which foods are healthy and which ones aren’t.”

Walmart’s “Great for You” seal is a front-of-package icon that will appear on more than 1,300 Great Value and Marketside food and beverages sold in Walmart’s U.S. stores.

Walmart also has committed itself to improve the nutritional quality of Walmart’s Great Value brand and national food brands by reducing sodium by 25 percent, added sugars by 10 percent and removing all industrially produced trans fats by the end of 2015.

It has promised to increase Americans’ access to fresh, healthier and affordable food by opening between 275 and 300 new stores in urban and rural food deserts by the end of 2016.

And the retailer plans to help Americans better understand nutrition and healthier eating options by increasing its charitable support for nutrition programs.