By Eli Yokley
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. —
Michelle Obama visited Springfield on Thursday to highlight the third anniversary of her “Let’s Move” program, touting potential business positives of an expanded healthy food section.
During a visit to a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, the first lady praised the company’s pledge to open or expand about 300 stores in communities with limited access to healthy food. She said businesses adapting on their own is what her program is all about.
“It’s not about government telling companies what to say or telling people what to buy,” she said. “It’s about businesses like Wal-Mart stepping up to give people the information they need to make healthy choices, then offering those choices at an affordable price.”
One of the information innovations she highlighted was Wal-Mart’s new Good For You label, which was designed to help consumers choose from a selection of 1,300 healthier products, including fresh fruits and vegetables. The first lady said consumers are more likely to buy healthy products when they are highlighted and made more accessible.
Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean was one of about 50 people invited to attend the event, which was mostly closed to the public. Colbert-Kean was among a group of regional leaders who met with the first lady before her remarks.
“It’s our kids’ health,” Colbert-Kean said. “If we’re not watching what they’re eating, then we’re going to have obesity problems on our hands. It is good to bring the information back to Joplin.”
She said learning about the initiative two years ago at a National League of Cities conference was what originally inspired the city’s own “LiveSmart” program, a coalition of education and health care entities encouraging Joplin’s youth to eat healthy and exercise. Colbert-Kean said she hopes the two programs can be combined in Joplin to encourage businesses — like Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market — to move to the community.
During a tour of the newly opened store, the first lady was joined by a group of Springfield parents and Wal-Mart executives where she noted Wal-Mart’s success in reducing the amount of sugars in dairy, sauces, and fruit drinks by 10 percent, and sodium in grain products, lunch meats, and salad dressings by 9 percent — well on their way to their goals by 2015.
“You all really took a risk in doing this,” she told Wal-Mart officials. “You didn’t just dip your toe into this.”
THURSDAY’S STOP was the last on a three-day tour, which also took Michelle Obama to Clinton, Miss., and Chicago, Ill. On Monday, she will be the host for a Google+ Hangout session touting the program, and on Wednesday will take part in a Twitter town hall.