Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Springfield, Missouri

February 28, 2013

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all so much. (Applause.) You all can rest yourselves. You don't have to exercise in front of me just because of Let's Move. (Laughter.)

I am really thrilled to be here today to celebrate the groundbreaking steps that Walmart has taken to make healthier food more affordable and accessible for American families. And I want to start by thanking Stephanie for her eloquent and kind introduction. Again, I got to spend time with Stephanie and a few other parents just sharing the ways, the improvements that Walmart has made -- really impacting their families and their families' dinner tables. And I just appreciate all of them for willing to spend time with me.

This is the reason why we're doing this. We're trying to make our families stronger. We're trying to make it easier to make the healthy choices. And to see all of this in action here, all the changes that we've worked on for so long -- to see them actually coming to fruition is very refreshing.

And of course, we wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for Leslie Dach and the amazing Walmart team, who has just been tireless in doing all this work. And I want to thank Leslie and everyone at Walmart who has -- they've proven to be very open and very strong and very passionate supporters.

Now, for years, the conventional wisdom said that healthy products simply didn't sell -- that the demand wasn't there, that higher profits were found elsewhere, so it just wasn't worth the investment. But thanks to Walmart and so many other great American businesses, we're proving that conventional wisdom wrong. Every day, with their success, these companies are showing us that what's good for kids and what's good for families' budgets can also be good for business.

Now, all of you at Walmart, you all really took a risk in doing this. And you didn't just make a few tweaks around the edges. I mean, one of the reasons why we've been so thrilled to partner with you is because you didn't just dip your toe into the water. Instead, you went all in. You transformed the way that you did businesses to bring your customers healthy products at prices they can afford.

As Leslie mentioned, in just two years, Walmart saved customers $2.3 billion on fresh fruits and vegetables across the nation. And I'm going to repeat these accomplishments because they're worth saying over and over again, because Walmart is still making money. You reduced the amount of sugar in products across the store by 10 percent. You've cut price premiums for healthy items, making the healthier item more affordable or just as affordable as the alternative.

You have opened 86 new stores -- one of the most important calls, most important work to eliminating food deserts, because you've opened these stores, including this one, in underserved communities. And now you've launched your "Great for You" seal that I got to see firsthand -- that helps customers immediately spot healthy items on the shelf. So they don't have to spend hours poring over those fine-print labels that you can barely understand to figure out which foods are healthy and which ones aren't.

And today, Walmart is seeing increased sales of fresh produce. You're building better relationships with your customers and stronger connections to your communities. And Walmart executives like Leslie are confident that the changes that you've made are good for Walmart's top line and bottom line going forward.

And Walmart isn't alone in discovering that healthier products actually sell. That's the good thing. The statistics on consumer demand couldn't be more clear. Today, 82 percent of consumers feel that it's important for companies to offer healthy products that fit family budgets. In recent years, healthier foods have generated more than 70 percent of growth in sales -- and sales of fresh fruits and vegetables have increased by 6 percent last year. And a recent report showed that companies selling a higher percentage of healthier foods have delivered significantly higher returns to their shareholders.

And let's be clear, these trends didn't -- they don't just matter for businesses that produce and sell food. Right now, we spend in this country $190 billion a year treating obesity-related health conditions, and a significant portion of those costs are borne by America's businesses. And we're not just talking about higher health care costs. We're talking about things like the cost that come with higher absenteeism and lower worker productivity, costs that will only continue to rise unless we finally solve this problem once and for all.

And that's why businesses across America are stepping up, and ultimately, that's really what Let's Move is all about. I say this time and time again -- it's not about government telling companies what to sell or telling people what to buy. It's about businesses like Walmart stepping up to give people the information they need to make the healthy choices that are right for them, and then offering those choices at prices they can afford. Because ultimately, Walmart knows that when the healthy choice is also the affordable choice, that's what's good for business.

But more than that, at Walmart, you can believe that as America's largest retailer, you have an obligation that goes far beyond the bottom line. You know that every day, with the products you sell, you're helping parents get by on a budget -- which is what everybody in this country is trying to do. You're helping kids get the nutrition they need to learn and grow and fulfill their God-given potential. And those aren't just business opportunities. They're moral obligations -- truly. They're responsibilities to the health of our families and the future of our next generation.

And in the coming months and years, we need more American businesses to step up and meet those responsibilities. We need more companies to do what Walmart has done -- to dig deep and to find new ways to make money by giving families better information and healthier choices.

And as parents and consumers, all of us need to step up as well. We were talking about this earlier. We need to take advantage of these choices once we have them. We need to speak with our wallets, because ultimately, we are the ones who create the demand for these products. With every dollar we spend, we're the ones who ensure that healthy choices are good for business.

And that's why I have never been more optimistic about our ability to solve this problem -- because the fact is we know what works. We see it every day. We know what works. We know how to get the results we want. And we are seeing unprecedented leadership from every sector -- from educators and faith leaders, from elected officials and parents, from businesses like Walmart.

And if we keep stepping up as we're doing, if we keep doing our part, all of us, for our children, I am absolutely confident that together, we can give our kids the bright futures they so richly deserve -- because in the end, that's what this is all about. I mean, in the end, we all care about our kids, right? In the end, we all would sacrifice anything for them to give them the very best we can. (Applause.) We're all on the same page as far as that's concerned. So we're going to keep working. We're going to keep partnering with companies like Walmart.

So again, it has been a privilege to be here, to see this, to share. I want to thank Walmart for everything that you've done and everything you're going to do. I look forward to working with you, but I also look forward to working with any companies out there that are ready to do innovative things and dig deep and make the big commitments.

So we're going to keep working, and we're looking forward to working with each of you, hand in hand, as parents, as community leaders, to keep giving our kids the healthy start they deserve.

So, congratulations, and thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Springfield, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320133

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