Michelle Obama, food activist

She goes glam for healthy eating

August 1, 2011

She did it to encourage kids to embrace healthy eating, but First Lady Michelle Obama’s stint as the cover model for the August issue of Better Homes and Gardens has gotten more coverage for its firsts than for its agenda.

The domestically oriented BH&G hasn't put a public figure on its cover since 1963, for one. She’s also the first First Lady to snag the cover; as the Washington Post noted, “Even Mamie Eisenhower was given an inside article.”

But Obama, who’s appeared on plenty of magazine covers already, wasn’t doing it for the glamor; as the article makes clear, her goal is to get kids to realize that healthy food can be fun and delicious. And yes, the magazine provides appealing recipes.

Like her husband, the First Lady is known for her pragmatism, and she’s taken plenty of flak recently for expanding her Let's Move! healthy-kids campaign into a food-justice campaign that includes Walmart.

Her goal this time? To get fresh, healthy food into the country’s “food deserts,” or regions and neighborhoods where decent groceries are scarce. After all, how are the nation’s kids supposed to eat well if the only foods available come from fast-food chains or corner marts?

But Obama’s embrace of Walmart, the largest grocery retailer in the country, has made some critics uncomfortable. Stacy Mitchell, for example, pointed out on Grist that no unionized grocery-store chains were included in Obama’s food-desert initiative. She also expressed concern that Walmart — which already rakes in a quarter of the country’s grocery sales — will simply use the initiative as an excuse to finish its takeover of the U.S. grocery business.

Independent retailers, Mitchell noted, were included as an afterthought in the campaign — but it’s the small-scale, locally focused, family-owned businesses that will help prevent America’s grocery business from becoming a centralized, industrialized, minimum-wage desert.

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