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Posted at 10:33 AM ET, 01/20/2011

Wal-Mart and Michelle Obama: endorsing a corporation or endorsing healthy food?

By Melissa Bell
An employee restocks a shelf in the grocery section of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Michelle Obama joined Wal-Mart executives in Washington Thursday morning to announce "a major initiative to provide its customers with healthier and more affordable food choices," Wal-Mart said.

It's an unusual pairing: a first lady and a major corporation. As one of the largest food providers in the country, the initiative could have a significant impact on the standards of eating. However, Wal-Mart is also a corporation that many criticize for its anti-union policies and for taking market share away from smaller, more local shops. Obama previously sat on the board of a Wal-Mart vendor, resigning in 2007, days after her husband--then running for president--said he would not shop at the store.

Is this a match made in health-food heaven or a celebrity endorsement of a corporation?

From our Facebook page, readers have already started weighing in:

"Let's just say that if I was Michelle, I'd keep my distance from that company. They're evil, top to bottom. I've never spent a dime there and never will. When they learn how to treat their employees, maybe we can talk. Until such time, the Waltons got rich without my help and it will remain that way."

"Wal-Mart is the largest grocery retailer in the country. It's a huge win to start with the company that can have the most influence on suppliers."

"I think it is a wonderful step to opening up access to healthy food to people of all incomes! All the other mass food stores need to follow WalMart's lead to REALLY create competition!"

Is this inappropriate for the first lady to partner with Wal-Mart? Or, in the pursuit of healthier eating habits, a good choice for the first lady? Use #healthierfoods to weigh in on the topic. Leave your thoughts in the comments or vote on the subject:

By Melissa Bell  | January 20, 2011; 10:33 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Mrs. Obama's open celebrity endorsement is just an outward example of the American political baseline. All politicians are nothing more than cleverly cloaked corporate spokespeople anyway. At least Michell is making it official.

Posted by: killingMother | January 20, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. Obama's open celebrity endorsement is just an outward example of the American political baseline. All politicians are nothing more than cleverly cloaked corporate spokespeople anyway. At least Michell is making it official.

Posted by: killingMother | January 20, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

A FLOTUS faux pas, sad to say. Walmart and Target have been introducing "fresh food" sections in their regular stores to capture consumer mindshare and to improve their bottom lines, not necessarily the American inner-city waist line. Further, touting the availability of albeit limited "fresh food" in a destination store like Walmart is much different from the Bllomberg initiative to make healthful produce and dairy as accessible in every NYC neighborhood as is junk/fast food. If one compared closely, I'm sure that one would find the shelf space for crap edibles in Walmart still much larger than the "fresh food" section.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | January 20, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

At least this eliminates any suspicion that this administration cares about its association with the left. Wal Mart will find the cheapest (read: least ethical) way possible to obtain relatively healthy food. All this does is create a huge incentive for producers of healthier food to sacrifice ethics for a sweet supply deal. NICE

Posted by: jamessantucci | January 20, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I wish Wal-Mart would get into the healthcare/insurance industry....maybe they can "streamline" the entire healthcare industry for us!
low-cost health clinics at Wal-Mart would increase access to healthcare;
low-cost prescriptions at Wal-Mart for ashthma inhalers; allergy medicine;
low-cost health insurance through Wal-Mart;
low-cost medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers,crutches, standard medical supplies
low-cost vaccines at Walmart;
low-cost birth control pills at Walmart;
low-cost x-rays at Walmart;
low-cost eye and dental care at Walmart;
Please Wal-Mart, consider this! Our government doesn't have a clue how to reduce costs!

Posted by: ohioan | January 20, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Wal-Mart has no redeeming social value. The Obamas willingness to become a photo-op for the most abusive retailer in the world is unfortunate, but expected as the sell out our country to big business criminal.

Posted by: mcstowy | January 20, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Another stage for the Obamas and their next run to the White House. Pure and simple and the only health they are concerned about is THEIR health.

Posted by: jbeeler | January 20, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Despite what many of us feel about WalMart, if they are the largest grocery retailer in the US, then the first lady is smart to try use them to have a positive impact on the most people.

Posted by: hatchlaw | January 20, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

When confronted with a problem, I go to where the problem is worst first. So, where do the mother's of the most overweight children shop most often?

Since, in the modern age, obesity is a sign of poverty, not prosperity as in times past, I would suspect that having WalMart as the vehicle for better nutritional values is the most effective way to make the biggest difference.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | January 20, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Obama is concerned about our childrens health, but also a pro-abortionist. Give me a break...

Posted by: SirLoinofBeef | January 20, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Consumer Reports weighs in:

Posted by: rheckler2002 | January 20, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

The irrational rage of "liberals" and "progressives" against a private enterprise is a very clear view into the raw political calculations of their masters.
This entire chapter in American "liberalism" is nothing more than a crusade for unions, and by proxy, the army of politicians they support.
Here in CA, Wal-Mart and Target have been fighting Safeway, et al, AND their unions to, of course, protect their little fiefdom and destroy any competition.
I could understand a crusade against Wal-Mart in the context of unsafe, low-quality Chinese imports (bought a garden hose or brass fitting lately?). Any other rationale is simply a mask for run-of-the-mill "progressive" politics (i.e. the pursuit of power).

Posted by: BigSea | January 20, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I respect Ms. Obama, and I think that she is a wonderful person and a great health ambassador. However, I would not deal with Walmart.

They symbolize evil to me, with the way that they treat their employees and do business in general.

Posted by: sharedgum | January 20, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Just about every major grocery chain in the USA has been way ahead of Wal- Mart on this very issue for years. Wal-Mart pricing can easily be matched or major chains can beat their prices.

Wal-Mart back door politics does not deserve this attention.

Wal-Mart has major issues involving discrimination,the environment,big time labor relations problems and always low wages. Plus making sure their low wage employees know how to obtain social services which is the same as a tax dollar subsidy from we taxpayers.

Yes Wal- Mart is a tax dollar moocher.


Posted by: rheckler2002 | January 20, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Oh, for goodness' sake. If she wants to endorse a huge company that makes a committment to sell healthy food at affordable prices to the many, many people in this country like me who cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods, more power to her.

Posted by: sarahlucia | January 20, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Privatized insurance - full coverage 24/7 $18,310 a year

IMPROVED Medicare Insurance for All - full coverage 24/7 $3300 a year for a family of four making about $60,000.

How do we get to this?

1. high dollar CEO's & stock options

2. golden parachutes

3. reckless spending of insurance dollars on special interest campaign funding

4. shareholders

5. spending $1.4 million medical insurance dollars a day to keep fiscally responsible IMPROVED Medicare Insurance for All off the table.

6. sales commissions

7. 33% of every medical insurance dollar is spent on administration

8. Open up cost of pharmaceuticals to a bid - gain VA pricing

9. Eliminate the private medical insurance industry because the 2000 private insurance providers do not provide health care.

10. Eliminates Billions of Insurance Industry Overcharges

What is Full Coverage 24/7 ?

* prescription drugs
• hospital
• surgical,
• outpatient services
• primary and preventive care
• emergency services,
• dental
• mental health
• home health
• physical therapy
• rehabilitation (including for substance abuse),
• vision care,
• hearing services including hearing aids
• chiropractic
• durable medical equipment
• palliative care
• long term care

NO deductible --- NO co-pay

Posted by: rheckler2002 | January 20, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

People of every economic background shop at Wal-Mart. (only an idiot to pay more for the very same item somewhere else!)
Wal-Mart has the know-how, the volume and the supply chain expertise to really put a dent into the healthcare industry.
If they wanted to, they Could, and they could do it light-year's faster than our government or insurance companies could!

Posted by: ohioan | January 20, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

If WalMart wants to make more healthy food available to its customers, more power to them. They do have incredible reach, particularly in poor areas of the country.

But beware their statement that they will provide produce for less. Produce is expensive to grow and handle; the only conclusion I can draw it that they will source it from outside the US in order to lower prices. That means the produce will be picked before it's ripe, meaning subpar taste, texture, and nutrition. Not to mention the petroleum they will burn shipping it over here.

Posted by: rosefarm1 | January 20, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

$4.00 prescriptions can be found just about everywhere not just Wal-Mart.

As a natural food grocery buyer for some years
I learned something about Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart does not have always lowest prices. In fact Target or other grocery stores can be as good as Wal-Mart. Many times Wal-Mart low price was only a few cents maybe a nickle or a dime but nothing extraordinary. Target did the same.

In my travels I learned a few other things about Wal-Mart. That a locally managed hardware store was matching prices OR quite competitive. All those years I was being duped by Wal-Mart saturation advertising.

Wal-Mart also imports a lot of food from China instead of supporting local farming communities..... beware. Read lablels closely
and look for produced in the USA.

About Whole Foods. Their brand name goods can be very affordable. But I did notice one time their Organic 365 label frozen broccoli
was from China. Whole Food does support local farmers.

For the record as a result of my price checking excursion we have NOT shopped Wal-Mart for 7 years. As one poster noted Wal-Mart is a crummy corporation IMO.

Posted by: rheckler2002 | January 20, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Nothing wrong with the the First Lady essentially endorsing the activities of Wal-Mart, but the motivation had nothing to do with healthy eating. It simply fits into her husband's overall plan to re-make himself as business friendly as a way to recapture the center and the independent voters leading up to 2012. Beware the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Posted by: West_Seattle | January 20, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

It would have been much better to encourage WalMart to pay a living wage so people who work there can afford to purchase fresh food for themselves and for their children.

Posted by: DWinFC | January 20, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

When comparing Walmart to competitors relative to wages and prices, its difficult, perhaps impossible to compare apples to apples.

Being retired, I've become aquainted with a few cashiers in a local chain supermarket. Their hours and pay strike me as poorer than what I read about Walmart. And, their jobs are being changed (downgraded???) by the check yourself out machines.

There's a lot of bad feelings about the way Walmart operated in the past. If they are trying hard to operate differently, it seems to me we should keep an open mind. Do we want to send business a message that if you operated in a self serving damn the consumer way in the past, and have made major efforts to change we won't recognize those efforts?

I want a combination of low prices and reasonable quality. Walmart's prices are often not the lowest and their quality often not the best, but their blend of quality and prices tends to make them the price performer.

Posted by: billsecure | January 20, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

My son lives in the middle of Missouri. The closest supermarket and the one with the greatest selection is WalMart. I was horrified to go shopping there, but the produce was in fact fresh and much of it local. Hard to swallow, but it's a fact.

Posted by: busgirl1 | January 20, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse

payback to the chinee masters

Posted by: schmidt1 | January 20, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Wait, I could be wrong here and correct me if I am, and I know you will. Isn't she for abortion? So, she wants healthy children when they are not killed? Is that correct?

Posted by: bailey50 | January 20, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Many low, medium income shoppers go to Walmart for many products, prescriptions and why not decent food? Walmart is coming to inner cities...and they know how to grow!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | January 20, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

It would be preaching to the choir to start a weight loss campaign at a fitness club.

Michelle is going into the heart of the beast at Wal-Mart. Try finding a skinny person at one of those stores.

Posted by: colonelpanic | January 20, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

It would be remiss for an initiative like this to ignore the largest retailer with the most access to the American public. I still won't be shopping there, though.

Posted by: Waffle365 | January 20, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Oh how cool is this? A fat celebrity role model Michelle Obama to be the "healthy foods at Wal-Mart spokesperson? She fits in
at Wal-Mart completely! Way to go MO!

Posted by: TammyLong1985 | January 20, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I just wanted to address something in this whole side-track of "pro-healthy choices for kids" AND "pro-abortion."

Firstly, she would not be the first person or the last that had an ideology that appeared disparate and hypocritical to others of a different ideology (Pro-life yet also pro-gun and pro-war).

Secondly, they are two different things, as I am sure anyone with an ideology similar to the example in the first point would tell you. I know I don't always follow a "sensible" conglomeration of ideas, being liberal and pro-gun.

Thirdly, and least sanely, the Georgia guidestones tell us that population control is the key to our future. I think we should have MORE abortions. Forced sterilization too. I think any male with an IQ lower than 100 should get a free government vasectomy. If not that, then the WHO will be forced to come up with something more effective than AIDS and that can get messy as we all know.

So remember this when you hear anything about abortion, or birth control, or comprehensive sex education, because it is just code for the evil neo fascist commie right wing liberal plot to destroy your freedom to have 8 children that all have diabetes now because you can't feed them on anything but mckraft macaroni and crap...
That is until the Wal-Mart down the street started carrying vegetables.

Posted by: ashtar377 | January 20, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

"They symbolize evil to me, with the way that they treat their employees and do business in general."

This is always the anti Wal-Mart battle cry.

If you worked at Wal-Mart and were mis-treated, more power to you. If you never worked there and are parroting what you hear you don't have a clue.

Posted by: BEEPEE | January 20, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Very disappointing way to go about promoting healthier eating for children.

Couldn't you take a farm trip or something?

Posted by: conare | January 20, 2011 6:57 PM | Report abuse

So, now MO is the spokesperson for WALMART? Unbelievable!

Posted by: crowne2 | January 20, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a very good thing. I only shop at Walmart and am happy with their produce. As far as their junk food, it is not any worse than anyone else's junk food. The buyer makes the decision, not the store, so you can pick up a candy bar or an apple. It's up to you.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Posted by: leslieswearingen | January 20, 2011 7:42 PM | Report abuse

The Waltons are absolutely brilliant when it comes to business decisions. They kiss Mrs. Obama's butt by endorsing healthy food. At the same time, they have everything made in China.

Chinese citizens are enslaved and they work endless hours at minimal wages. Does Obama and the leftist media say anything...of course not. China owns us and the Waltons know it. They will continue to make billions off Chinese slave labor.

Posted by: Dodgers1 | January 20, 2011 8:51 PM | Report abuse

The eye-opening documentary Food, Inc. makes clear the reason that Wal-Mart is indeed a major player in the healthful food choices game. Whether we like Wal-Mart or not, they are (and have been) an American consumer game-changer.

Posted by: primary19 | January 20, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Walmart is the main food supplier in many parts of America. Bring healthy food to the people by all means necessary. If you want to find organic food only at Whole Foods or some inaccessible gourmet boutique you're a selfish snob and you can die in a fire.

Posted by: alarico | January 20, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

"1st Lady Michelle, I need a "healthy" salary to buy "healthy" food! Michelle is a lawyer; Wal-Mart is facing a class action lawsuit for gender discrimination, the largest class action lawsuit in the history of the U.S. Wal-Mart does not deny the discrimination, yet they are saying that a class of plaintiffs that large, thousands, perhaps over a million current and former female employees, over a period of more than 20 years! Those women are working class women, some are single mothers, many are Black or Brown women. So 1st Lady Michelle don't like working class women? IS SHE SERIOUS?

Posted by: 424me | January 20, 2011 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Encouraging people to eat more healthy food is great. However, providing free advertising to Walmart in the process is lousy. The people who lost jobs when Walmart ran local businesses into the ground can't afford healthy food. I'd rather support businesses that care about American workers, and purchase food that was produced here. Price isn't everything. Walmart can keep the underripe, chemical-laden produce.

Posted by: Voter4Integrity | January 20, 2011 10:54 PM | Report abuse

It just makes good sense. Walmart is where scads of people, especially poor people, do much of their shopping - even for food. If you can switch these MANY folks to healthier choices you have made a big difference. The Walmart food shopper probably does not also shop at Whole Foods or even have many alternative grocery stores in their area.

Also, Walmart is huge, efficient, and has lots of clout with suppliers. They can totally influence the food supply industry and have in the past- hopefully this time for the good! If they say "lower the sodium by half or we won't stock it" - it WILL happen!

That said, I never go to any Walmart for anything, and probably never will. (I also resent the recent mutation of my local CVS store and closest Target location into partial grocery stores. They took away aisles full of other, non-food, goods I used to buy. I have no intention of buying groceries at either one, and now I have to find stores that sell the goods they discontinued!)

Posted by: bernadete | January 20, 2011 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Oh wow, I have gotten about 3 or 4 different samples from major brands. It is not difficult to find them. Search online for "123 Get Samples" you can find them easily.

Posted by: marypeter21 | January 21, 2011 2:51 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, I am an anti-Walmart advocate, but I have no children whom I must shop for in a town where only Walmart exists.

FLOTUS is hitting the nail on the head, but preferably it would be nice for her to advocate opening up healthier food outlets over endorsing Walmart.

Endorsing healthier outlets would increase the economic stability of America, increase job creation and perhaps destabilize Walmart, but that may be too little too late, so she is doing what she is doing.

I think it would be better had she not endorsed Walmart, but moved to make a general statement to all stores selling food in the industry of food.

Posted by: scheduler | January 21, 2011 3:35 AM | Report abuse

I AM NOTa Walmart fan by any stretch. I AM a Michelle Obama fan. Hopefully some of Michelle's involvement can influence the Walmart folks with her tendency to put things on top of the table AND to deal with others in an openly confrontive manner for all concerned.

John M. Hagler

Posted by: wushock67 | January 21, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

What's next, a toothy advertisement for soylent green? People who need to have their vittles trucked in are herd critters and subject to the whims of their drovers.

Posted by: jbksss | January 21, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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