I'm not a supporter of Wal-Mart or Sam's Club. I don't agree with their labor practices. I don't believe in getting my daily necessities from a store that's the size of Rhode Island. I also don't think selling packaged processed food in bulk for household use is doing us (and our health) any good. I doubt any family needs 5 loaves of white bread and 5 pound bags of candies.
Having said that, there are some potential positive outcomes from Wal-Mart's initiative to bring healthier products to its stores. As outlined by Marion Nestle on Food Politics, the giant plans to:
On a deeper level, Wal-Mart also has the ability to impact America's food supply simply because it has tremendous buying power. Manufacturers have to cater to the new initiative just to keep their transactions with Wal-Mart and to stay in business. So in a way, Wal-Mart's decision might be a huge help for fighting the obesity epidemic.
- Work with processed food suppliers to reduce sodium, sugars, and trans fat in hundreds of foods by 2015
- Develop its own front-of-package seal to identify healthier products
- Make healthier processed foods more affordable
- Put a new, different kind of Walmart store in low-income “food deserts”
- Increase charitable support for nutrition programs
All seem like a glorious and flawless plan? The company is still a small business killer. Its motivation is still our dollars. It will continue to reign as the world's largest retailer as long as consumers don't recognize the long term destruction of retail giants.
At a recent bookstore appearance, Dr. Robert Gottlieb of Occidental College's UEPI and co-author of Food Justice shared an anecdote about the mega-store.
In our book, Food Justice, we told the example of one Midwestern farmer who had worked out an arrangement to supply just one of the massive Wal-Mart stores with its watermelons. Due to the arrangement that Wal-Mart required, the farmer had to act as a broker, sourcing from other small and mid-sized farmers from several adjacent counties to meet Wal-Mart’s requirements. That meant that literally all the watermelons went to Wal-Mart, with none now available for farmers’ markets and other local venues. The price that the farmer received from the Wal-Mart sale was also far lower than he would have received if he had sold directly at a farmers’ market.So the verdict on Wal-Mart's initiative? You be the judge.