Walmart's Healthier-Food Initiative: Big Enough to Combat Big Sugar?

Walmart, the world's largest retailer and largest purveyor of groceries, is stepping into the fight against obesity and food security in a big way.

Walmart, the world's largest retailer and largest purveyor of groceries, is stepping into the fight against obesity and food security in a big way.


Organizations that advocate for local businesses, like the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, say that Walmart's two-year-old healthier-food program, endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama, is a ploy to help the company make inroads into urban areas and push out smaller food retailers. Others, such as Huffington Post business editor Jillian Berman, question whether even this huge effort is enough to wean consumers from the junk food that has become a dietary addiction.

One of the important studies cited in Mrs. Obama's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece about the initiative referenced the payoff that offering healthier, lower-calorie foods can bring to business. If other companies see the value in following Walmart's lead, there may be hope for curbing the obesity epidemic that is contributing to health disparities and soaring healthcare costs.

The program has a number of elements that should lead to healthier eating habits:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14.9 percent (17.9 million households) were food insecure in 2011. Food-insecure households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members. Walmart has already opened 86 stores in food deserts since 2011, using the Department of Agriculture's Food Desert Locator to pinpoint locations. The new stores serve both urban and rural areas including Atlanta, Durham, N.C., and Springfield, Mo., where Mrs. Obama spoke last week.

Food Desert Locator

The healthier-food effort is in step with Walmart's declaration late last year that 100 percent of its growth will come from multicultural customers, which includes groups, such as Blacks and Latinos, that are at highest risk for obesity—in turn putting them at risk for diseases triggered by poor nutrition, such as diabetes and heart disease. Combine that with the fact that 56.7 percent of Walmart's customers have household incomes below $50,000, and it's clear that even if the healthier-food efforts are being made for self-serving reasons, they likely will help reduce healthcare costs that currently represent about 18 percent of the GDP.

In another push to bring health awareness to its customers, Walmart last week also announced that it would be putting healthcare kiosks into 2,500 Walmart and Sam's Club stores this month. The kiosks, made by SoloHealth, will allow people to check their blood pressure or heart rate while buying their fruits and vegetables. SoloHealth said it plans to update the kiosks so that they include smoking-cessation tips, diabetes testing and programs for helping consumers enroll in health plans. Consumer advocates have raised privacy concerns about the kiosks, which ask consumers for their email addresses to send follow-up information. But if the machines are raising awareness among those who might be uninsured or not inclined to see a physician, they might just motivate consumers to take charge of their health.

After a Typhoon of Publicity, Harvey Weinstein Charged with Rape

Allowed to turn himself in with pre-arranged bail already taken care of.

REUTERS

There was one more red carpet for Harvey to walk down. At 7:30 this morning, the alleged rapist walked into a Lower Manhattan police station surrounded by cameras flashing and reporters shouting his name.

Read More Show Less

People With Disabilities Forced to Live in Assisted Care Facilities

Some close to the issue are claiming this is a civil rights matter.

Minnesota has a civil rights issue. Thousands of people with disabilities who can't find quality home care are forced to resort to living with people three times their age. The state of Minnesota is paying for 1,500 people who are under the age of 65 to live in assisted living. This is the case with 25-year-old Korrie Johnson.

Read More Show Less

Man Who Threatens to Sic ICE on Spanish-Speaking People Identified

Aaron Schlossberg is a New York-based attorney, and it turns out he has a lot of problems and they're all well documented.

The man caught on video lashing out at people for speaking Spanish has been identified as attorney Aaron Schlossberg. Twitter users made the identification, and it is being widely reported that he is the man.

The good news is that a GoFundMe account has been set up to send a Mariachi band to Schlossberg's Manhattan office. According to the fundraiser, "Any leftover money will be used to send a delicious Taco Truck lunch to the staff and a copy of all federal and state statute mentioning undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare."

Read More Show Less

'This is America' Video at 74 Million Views in Six Days, up 8 Million Since Yesterday Afternoon

Childish Gambino's insightful, intelligent and powerful observation of our culture inspires layered analysis.

Race, gun violence and U.S. culture are explored in recording artist Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video, which has gone viral. The video has garnered more than 74 million views on YouTube since it was released on Saturday and the buzz continues to grow.

Read More Show Less

White Yale Student Calls Police on Black Student for Napping in Dorm

A Black graduate student was harassed for falling asleep while studying.

Lolade Siyonbola/ FACEBOOK

Yale University claims it is committed to "maintaining an inclusive community of scholars." However, there's a glaring error in its practices when a white graduate student is either ill prepared or unwilling to live in a diverse and inclusive environment and continues to call the authorities on Black students.

Read More Show Less

Graduating While Black: Students Manhandled on Stage at University of Florida Commencement Ceremony

"It's a situation where time and time again the university has made Black bodies feel unsafe," said graduate Oliver Telusma.

TWITTER

During the University of Florida's (UF) commencement ceremony, a white university graduation marshal decided to stop Black students from celebrating their diplomas with "strolling." He physically forced them off stage. At the pinnacle of their college careers, Black graduates were reminded that racism exists at the university.

Read More Show Less