Walmart now captures $1 of every $4 Americans spend on groceries, according to a series of excellent reports by Stacy Mitchell&co. And it’s on track to claim an increasingly large part of food sales in the US, already owning half of it in many metro areas. The retail giant has already dramatically altered the food system — triggering massive consolidation, driving down prices to farmers, while driving prices up for the consumer (see her info graphic below), leaving more families struggling to afford healthy food, and indeed, creating more poverty.
Don’t get fooled by the chain’s new ‘local’ branding. Because ‘local’ for Walmart doesn’t mean what you think it means. Their ‘local’ label is done the industrial, corporate way, and can’t be expected to be any more ethical than their take on ‘organic’ was. It is certainly not driven by the concern for small, local farmers, but rather fueled by raising diesel prices, as trimming the number of “food miles” produce travels cuts fuel costs.
“The more dominant Walmart becomes, the fewer opportunities there will be for farmers markets, food co-ops, neighborhood grocery stores, and a host of other enterprises that are beginning to fashion a better food system – one organized not to enrich corporate middlemen, but to the benefit of producers and eaters”, Mitchell writes further. And adds: “As it grows, Walmart pushes out existing enterprises and local economic systems and replaces them with its own, often far more polluting, global supply chain and sprawling stores. If any single fact could sum up what’s at stake, it would be that Walmart now controls one-quarter of our country’s grocery sales and aims to capture half — a prospect with disastrous implications for the environment, social justice, and local economies”.
Never mind the ‘greenwash’: according to a report from the Institute for Local Self Reliance, Walmart’s sustainability campaign is much more focused on making its operations appear green to customers than it is about doing things that would actually help the environment, like reducing emissions.
Says Mitchell: “Signs of a revitalized food system have been springing up all over — farmers markets, urban gardeners, neighborhood grocers, consumer co-ops, CSAs — but their growth may well be cut short if Walmart has its way”.
As a consumer, you don’t have to buy into it. Every time you spend a dollar, you execute your power to vote with your wallet. Buy truly local, support sustainable business.