Wal-Mart Unveils Healthy Food Initiative

Excellent New York Times coverage of Wal-Mart’s moves to offer healthier foods, as well as cheaper fruits and vegetables. The company plans to slash sodium by 25 percent, and get rid of all trans fats by 2015.

I know it’s fashionable to hate on Wal-Mart, but this is a company that’s twice now used its enormous size and leverage to hasten urgently needed social change. Wal-Mart was a key player in shifting Americans away from wasteful incandescent light bulbs, and now it’s acting with equal commitment to improve its food offerings.

Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, says:

Our customers have always told us, We don’t understand why whole wheat macaroni and cheese costs more than regular macaroni and cheese. We’ve always said that we don’t think the Wal-Mart shopper should have to choose between a product that is healthier for them and what they can afford.

This isn’t lip service: it’s  a carefully thought out strategy that will measurably improve how many Americans eat.  People are still going to eat junky convenience foods, but it’s possible to reformulate these foods so they’re a lot less health damaging. But for this to happen, a major player needs to lead the way, and that’s exactly what Wal-Mart is now doing.

None of these moves will affect the most fortunate and well-informed food consumers—the people with the financial means and the knowledge to choose the highest quality, locally grown foods. These people don’t buy food at Wal-Mart, and never will. But what we’re seeing here is a raising of the lowest common denominator in how Americans eat, and this is certain to have transformational effects throughout our food system. Link.