Walmart, saying it was inspired by first lady Michelle Obama's campaign to fight childhood obesity, is stepping up to the plate, announcing on Thursday a five-year plan to lower salts, fats and sugars in thousands of its products, and dropping prices for healthy items.
They're not really likely allies.
After all, the White House and corporate America have had a fairly contentious relationship during the first two years of the Obama administration. Not to mention that Walmart, the world's largest retailer with billions in sales, doesn't need to adjust the product it puts on its shelves. And that's why the first lady's "Let's Move" campaign's collaboration with Walmart to offer healthier food is so surprising.
Under the initiative, Walmart will make healthier food choices more affordable, develop seals for the front of packaging to make healthier food more identifiable, address food desert issues and increase support for nutrition programs.
Walmart sells more groceries than any other company in the U.S. and changes made by its suppliers could have a big impact on American's access to healthy food.
Speaking in front of stacks of produce and a giant "Let's Move" and "Walmart" banners, Mrs. Obama told a crowded auditorium at a community center in southeastern Washington, D.C., that Walmart's new, healthy charter is a huge victory for every American.
"It's a victory for parents. It's a victory for families, but most of all, it's a victory for our children," she said.
Mrs. Obama's husband, the president, back in 2007 when he was serving in the U.S. Senate, criticized Walmart for not paying its workers more. All was forgiven on Thursday.
Walmart executives proudly joined the first lady at the event and described how her campaign motivated them to make a difference.
"What you really have to look at is what's happening in our country and it really comes down to one basic truth: and the fact is that healthier eating -- and I think it's a goal we all share -- is really, really hard to do given the lifestyles that we live today," said Bill Simon, the CEO of Walmart. He called heart disease and diabetes complex problems for society, and he said Walmart realizes it has a role to play.
In a ringing endorsement of the first lady's campaign, Leslie Dach, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Walmart described Michelle Obama as the catalyst that lead to Walmart's commitment.
"Through her 'Let's Move' campaign she's reached out and engaged every sector of society that can make a difference on this issue, and that's exactly the kind of leadership this nation needs," he said.
Walmart may have joined the first lady's campaign ultimately to help its bottom line. The company has been trying to open stores in big cities and says if they're allowed, they would bring healthier food to places with limited access to groceries.
Mrs. Obama, who is extremely enthusiastic about the announcement, said she believes Walmart's new charter represents something much bigger in her fight.
"When we decided to take on the issue of childhood obesity, I have to tell you, in the back of my mind, I wondered if we could really make a difference," the first lady said. "But today, when I see a company like Walmart launch an initiative like this I feel more hopeful than ever before…"