Thursday, January 20, 2011

Michelle Obama Speaks on Walmart's Healthy Food Initiative

Believe it or not Walmart is the nation's largest grocer.
9:58 A.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all. Thank you so much. Look, I am so excited to be here today because I am thrilled about Walmart’s new Nutrition Charter.

So I want to start off by thanking Bill not just for that kind introduction, but for all that he and his colleagues have done to make this day possible.

I also want to thank Leslie Dach and Andrea Thomas for joining us today and for their tireless efforts. They have been working so hard with my staff to bring us this exciting new initiative.

And I also want to recognize Jim Gavin here, who’s the Chairman of the Partnership for a Healthier America. That organization is going to play a critical role in making this Nutrition Charter a success. So we are delighted to have him join us, as well.

Now, I wanted to be here today, it was important for me to be here, first and foremost, because I believe this Charter is a huge victory for folks all across this country. It’s a victory for parents. It’s a victory for families. But most of all, it’s a victory for our children.

But I’m also here today because I think this new initiative represents something so much bigger, because the truth is -- and let me share this -- when we decided to take on the issue of childhood obesity, I have to tell you in the back of my mind, I wondered to myself whether we could really make a difference, because when you take on a problem this big and this complicated, at times it can be a little overwhelming. You start to wonder: Is what we’re trying to do here really going to make a difference? Are folks really interested and ready to make the kinds of changes that are going to be necessary to get our kids in a healthy place? Is what we’re doing actually going to make our kids better?

But today, when I see a company like Walmart launch an initiative like this, I feel more hopeful than ever before that the answer to these questions is yes.

Efforts like this show us that yes, we can improve how we make and sell food in this country. We can do that. And we can feed our kids better.

Yes, we can give parents better information so that they can make better decisions for their families. We can do this.

And yes, there are CEOs like Bill Simon out there and so many others across this country who are willing to step up and help us solve this problem, not just as executives who care about their company’s bottom lines, but as parents and as grandparents who care about our nation’s children.

And it’s not just business leaders who are stepping up, we have learned. Since we’ve launched “Let’s Move” nearly a year ago, we’ve seen folks from every sector of our society stepping up. We have seen educators planting school gardens and providing healthier school meals. We’ve seen doctors screening kids for obesity and teaching parents how to address the issue in their own homes. Mayors are building playgrounds and bike paths to help families be more active. Our faith leaders are urging their congregations to lead healthier lifestyles.

And Congress is getting into the act, as well. Just last month, as Bill mentioned, my husband signed the Health and Hunger-Free Kids Act. This is historic legislation that’s going to provide more nutritious school meals to millions of American children. (Applause.) It’s a big step up. (Applause.)

And today, with this announcement, the largest corporation in America is launching a new initiative that has the potential to transform the marketplace and to help American families put healthier food on their tables every single day.

This Nutrition Charter promises a real change that can have a fundamental impact in how our kids eat, you see, because when parents have the information they need about the products they buy, that puts them back in charge, so they can make good decisions for their families.

When kids are consuming these products every day, those reductions in sugar, and salt and trans-fat can really add up. When healthier options are finally affordable, that can affect every single meal a child eats, whether it’s adding fruit at breakfast, or whole wheat bread at lunch, or some more veggies on the plate at dinner. And when 140 million people a week are shopping at Walmart, then day by day, and meal by meal, all these small changes can start to make a big difference for our children’s health. Read the whole speech