Walmart likes to claim that they are organic, sustainable, and all about healthy options. But in reality, Walmart is a driving force in the unhealthy lifestyles that have led to an “epidemic” of weight and diet-related health problems in our country.
Walmart’s share of the grocery market stands at an unprecedented and increasingly-growing 25%. This means that Walmart has an alarming amount of control over what American eats.
According to an article from Truthout, Walmart has “recast its relentless expansion as a solution to ‘food deserts.’” However, when looking at the stats, it isn’t hard to see that this claim is more of a PR stunt:
“Although Walmart has made food deserts the vanguard of its PR strategy in urban areas, most of the stores the chain has built or proposed in cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. are in fact just blocks from established supermarkets, many unionized or locally owned. As it pushes into cities, Walmart’s primary aim is not to fill gaps but to grab market share.”
Aside from Walmart’s bogus reasoning behind its rapid expansion, what is truly worrisome is this:
“Walmart’s takeover of our food system has been to intensify the rural and urban poverty that drives unhealthy food choices. Poverty has a strong negative effect on diet, regardless of whether there is a grocery store in the neighborhood or not, a major 15-year study published in 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine found. Access to fresh food cannot change the bottom-line reality that cheap, calorie-dense processed foods and fast food are financially logical choices for far too many American households. And their numbers are growing right alongside Walmart. Like Midas in reverse, Walmart extracts wealth and pushes down incomes in every community it touches, from the rural areas that produce food for its shelves to the neighborhoods that host its stores.”
Farmers and food workers are now struggling more than ever to make a living now too, thanks to Walmart’s control of the industry. In order to avoid being crushed by the mega-corporation, food companies have been forced to merge and consolidate in hopes that they can supply for Walmart. The result is that 4 meatpacking companies slaughter more than three quarters of America’s beef, and a single dairy producer handles 40% of the country’s milk. With monopolies like this, the ability for businesses to compete is all but zilch.
The effect of all of this? It comes down to less pay for farmers and food workers, a decrease in the value of the consumer dollar, and higher grocery prices overall. But since Walmart’s prices are so low, many are forced to shop there, creating a vicious cycle: “As Walmart stores multiply, fewer families can afford to eat well.”
But let’s not forget the other huge reason Walmart is downright unhealthy: It doesn’t provide its hard-working associates with living wages, affordable healthcare, or oftentimes, even a safe working environment. When the workers who make Walmart the success it is have to decide between food for their family or paying the electric bill, can’t go to the doctor because if they miss work they will be fired, or are afraid to speak out about issues in the workplace because of harassment and intimidation, healthy living becomes impossible–regardless of food choice.