Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama and James Gavin III practically shed tears of joy over Wal-Mart's professed commitment to selling good food cheaper and expanding into barren Whole Foods-deprived “food deserts.” Gavin said, perhaps jokingly, that he hoped to see Wal-Mart double its U.S. store count. The next corporate behemoth up for a public knighting is McDonald's. In response to the fast food giant's plan to, among other noble deeds, add apple slices to its Happy Meals, push a health-oriented mobile phone app, and reduce sodium, sugars, saturated fats, and calories by 2020, Mrs. Obama made a statement yesterday:
McDonald's is making continued progress today by providing more fruit and reducing the calories in its Happy Meals. I've always said that everyone has a role to play in making America healthier, and these are positive steps toward the goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity. McDonald's has continued to evolve its menu, and I look forward to hearing about the progress of today's commitments, as well as efforts in the years to come.
And just like that, the hypertension-plagued clown with the fluffy red 'fro, veteran of billions and billions served, became a public health crusader. Whether it's the biggest grocery chain or the biggest restaurant chain, Mrs. Obama clearly believes that working with the hands that feed the most mouths is the best way to change the American diet in the most sweeping fashion.
McDonald's and Wal-Mart may be seeing an opportunity to saddle up to a big green cash cow — especially since the marketing of unhealthy food to kids is increasingly regulated. And an apple a day does not keep the doctor away if the apple is accompanied by a Big Mac and a 50 oz. soda. Education and parental involvement may have to play a role if the beaming Happy Meal recipients of the future aren't going to send those apple slices straight to the compost heap.