Walmart is taking measures to make a healthier lifestyle more available to its customers.
CEO Bill Simon said that because Walmart has more than 140 million customers visit each week, it is “uniquely positioned to make a difference” by making food healthier and cheaper.
First lady Michelle Obama joined forces with the company to formulate a program Walmart will implement over the next 10 years to encourage shoppers to eat healthier.
Anne Mathews, research assistant scientist in the department of food science and human nutrition at UF, was invited by Walmart to attend a teleconference discussing its new initiative. Mathews said by 2015, Walmart plans to make significant changes in its branded foods specifically.
She said Walmart pla`ns to eliminate trans fats and reduce sugar and sodium from its products.
Mathews, a registered dietician, said she feels Walmart’s initiative is worthwhile. She said she hopes it can make a difference.
Walmart is focusing on making sure staple food items like canned goods, mixes, yogurts, drinks and bread are nutritional and healthier.
“In society today, families struggle to shop for easily prepared meals,” Mathews said. “So anything we can do to make easily accessed options healthier is great.”
The part of Walmart’s initiative that Mathews is most excited about is the company’s plan to lower the cost of fruits and vegetables.
“Small studies have shown that people don’t buy fruits and vegetables because they are so expensive, and processed food items are cheaper,” Mathews said. “If fruits and vegetables are more accessible to more people, to me that is the most important part of the initiative.”
Nineteen-year-old Johan Bueno said that by lowering the prices of healthy food items, Walmart will become a more appealing grocery store to people who feel they can’t afford to make a lifestyle change in.
“I feel like many people are forced to eat unhealthy because health food stores are so expensive, and then they feel like they can’t afford healthier options,” Bueno said.
He said he thinks Walmart’s image could improve substantially from this initiative if Walmart’s advertising strategy promotes it well.
“Not only will this help out people who eat unhealthy foods, but it will also help people who eat healthy, like me, to save money on their grocery bills,” Bueno said.