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Part of the company’s mission has been to promote nutrition by providing lean cuts of meat, preservative-free baked products and good quality fruits and vegetables, Middleton said.

The chain has launched a “Viva la Salud” (Long Live Health) campaign, which puts a special tag to denote healthy foods, such as olive oil rather than lard, and holds cooking classes in stores.

The company was founded by Mexican immigrant Miguel Gonzalez in 1980, who came to the United States after his shoe store burned down in Jalisco.

After working for several years in various jobs, he had saved enough to buy an old liquor store in Anaheim and convert it to a grocery store that became a community gathering spot, recalled his youngest son Oscar Gonzalez, who heads the company.

Seeing a niche in catering to fellow immigrants, he expanded the business with the help of his 13 children. It now employs 5,000 people.

Obama said she was impressed by the family’s commitment to the communities they serve. “Their story is so inspiring on so many different levels,” she said.

After the Inglewood event, Obama was scheduled to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and to deliver a luncheon speech at the Democratic National Committee.


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