A retail giant is working to roll out a major policy change to sell healthier foods which could bring a sales boost for Iowa fruit and vegetable growers.

Andrea Thomas, senior vice president for sustainability at Walmart, says the chain is working with First Lady Michelle Obama on an initiative designed to convince food manufacturers to reduce sugar and sodium content.

“First, by improving the nutrition of the food that we sell,” Thomas says. “Second, by making healthier foods more affordable, and third, by making it easier for our customers to buy healthier foods.”

Nearly 17,500 Iowans work for Walmart in its dozens of stores statewide.

As the state and nation battle an obesity epidemic, Thomas says the goal is to make foods more healthy and more accessible.

“We’re excited about this,” Thomas says. “It’s something that our customers have been asking for and we think Walmart can really be a catalyst to work with all of our suppliers to bring affordable, healthy foods to all of our shoppers.”

Thomas says the move could have a far-reaching impact, given the scope of the company’s reach.

She says, “One of the things we can do is convene a lot of people across the industry to take an industry-wide initiative and to really help things that go even beyond our Walmart stores.”

The plan involves reducing sodium by 25-percent and added sugars by 10-percent in products by 2015.

In Iowa, Walmart has 49 so-called supercenters, ten discount stores, eight Sam’s Clubs and one distribution center — in Mount Pleasant.