Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is working with the first lady to make healthy change in its Great Value brand, to reduce the cost of fresh produce, and to tackle food deserts. This is just one more move by the company that is challenging my extreme dislike for it.
Just the other day, the company announced that it was donating $2 billion to 16 food banks for energy upgrades. That’s on top of the $2 billion they promised last year in cash and food. The company also announced last year that it will double its sales of local produce to 9 percent of purchases in the United States by 2015. (Although many are concerned about the fairness of the prices that Wal-Mart will pay local farmers.)
Giving to food banks and supporting local agriculture are two things I care about deeply. Those two things have me thinking I might need to re-evaluate my extreme dislike for Wal-Mart. Then, today, I read in the New York Times that the company is doing even more seemingly good deeds.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, will announce a five-year plan on Thursday to make thousands of its packaged foods lower in unhealthy salts, fats and sugars, and to drop prices on fruits and vegetables.
The initiative came out of discussions the company has been having with Michelle Obama, the first lady, who will attend the announcement in Washington and has made healthy eating and reducing childhood obesity the centerpiece of her agenda. Aides say it is the first time Mrs. Obama has thrown her support behind the work of a single company.
- A 25 percent reduction in sodium in Great Value products.
- The elimination of industrially added trans fats in Great Value products.
- A 10 percent reduction in added sugars in Great Value products.
- A pledge to press other major food suppliers to follow its example.
- A drop in the price of fruits and vegetables (while not “asking the farmers to accept less for their crops”).
- A push to eliminate any extra cost to customers for healthy foods made with whole grains.
- Addressing the food desert problem by opening more stores.
I’m not comfortable with where many plastic toys and items of clothing they sell are made, the unknown of who makes the toys, or what materials might be used. As our Earth Matter’s blogger Shea Gunther remarked when he found out that the soda section of a Wal-Mart being opened in Levittown, Penn., was as bigger than a Taco Bell, “Good luck greening that up.”
Still, some of Wal-Mart's recent efforts to address the nutrition in some of its foods and getting affordable healthier food into the hands of those who need it have me thinking. It’s time for me to think about the level of "evilness" that I have attributed to the company. And, while I don’t have any plans to step foot in a Wal-Mart anytime soon, perhaps I can be more understanding of the people who do — at least to grocery shop.