Wal-Mart and Communities of Color

Flickr: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

While the Washington Times probes whether it’s a conflict of interest for Council member Yvette Alexander’s advisers to work as paid consultants for Wal-Mart, over at Colorlines, Juell Stewart examines Michelle Obama’s endorsement of the company.

In January, the first lady joined Wal-Mart executives in southeast D.C.—a traditionally black neighborhood in which the controversial chain recently announced plans to open stores—to announce the company’s effort to make its pre-packaged foods healthier and more affordable than less healthy options by 2015. Obama called it a “huge victory” that left her feeling “more hopeful than ever before.”…

Other critics say that by teaming up with corporate giants like Wal-Mart, the first lady risks undermining activism on other issues, like fair labor practices in communities of color that are increasingly dependent upon service sector jobs.

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The “huge victory” Obama championed in the Wal-Mart announcement is creating viable choices for informed consumers. She and others have argued that communities can only win if there is cost parity between healthy food and the high-calorie snacks that contribute to obesity. “If you have a dollar menu item and a healthier salad that costs three times as much, it’s not a choice for people living on a limited income,” says Antronette K. Yancey, co-director of the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity.