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Walmart's Death Grip on Groceries Is Making Life Worse for Millions of People

Business  (tags: abuse, americans, business, consumers, corporate, corruption, dishonesty, economy, ethics, government, Food, investing, investments, labor, lies, money, politics, society, usa, wal-mart )

- 1913 days ago -
Walmart's growing control of our food system has been to intensify the rural and urban poverty that drives unhealthy food choices.

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Kit B (276)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 6:58 am
Photo Credit:

This article was published in partnership with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

When Michelle Obama visited a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, a few weeks ago to praise the company's efforts to sell healthier food, she did not say why she chose a store in Springfield of all cities. But, in ways that Obama surely did not intend, it was a fitting choice. This Midwestern city provides a chilling look at where Walmart wants to take our food system.

Springfield is one of nearly 40 metro areas where Walmart now captures about half or more of consumer spending on groceries, according to Metro Market Studies. Springfield area residents spend just over $1 billion on groceries each year, and one of every two of those dollars flows into a Walmart cash register. The chain has 20 stores in the area and shows no signs of slowing its growth. Its latest proposal, a store just south of the city's downtown, has provoked widespread protest. Opponents say Walmart already has an overbearing presence in the region and argue that this new store would undermine nearby grocery stores, including a 63-year-old family-owned business which still provides delivery for its elderly customers. A few days before the First Lady's visit, the City Council voted 5-4 to approve what will be Walmart's 21st store in the community.

As Springfield goes, so goes the rest of the country, if Walmart has its way. Nationally, the retailer's share of the grocery market now stands at 25 percent. That's up from 4 percent just 16 years ago. Walmart's tightening grip on the food system is unprecedented in U.S. history. Even A&P often referred to as the Walmart of its day accounted for only about 12 percent of grocery sales at its height in the 1940s. Its market share was kept in check in part by the federal government, which won an antitrust case against A&P in 1946. The contrast to today's casual acceptance of Walmart's market power could not be more stark.

Having gained more say over our food supply than Monsanto, Kraft, or Tyson, Walmart has been working overtime to present itself as a benevolent king. It has upped its donations to food pantries, reduced sodium and sugars in some of its store-brand products, and recast its relentless expansion as a solution to "food deserts." In 2011, it pledged to build 275-300 stores "in or near" low-income communities lacking grocery stores. The Springfield store Obama visited is one of 86 such stores Walmart has since opened. Situated half a mile from the southwestern corner of a census tract identified as underserved by the USDA, the store qualifies as "near" a food desert. Other grocery stores are likewise perched on the edge of this tract. 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.


The real effect of 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.

Walmart has made it harder for farmers and food workers to earn a living. Its rapid rise as a grocer triggered a wave of mergers among food companies, which, by combining forces, hoped to become big enough to supply Walmart without getting crushed in the process. Today, food processing is more concentrated than ever. Four meatpackers slaughter 85 percent of the nation's beef. One dairy company handles 40 percent of our milk, including 70 percent of the milk produced in New England. With fewer buyers, farmers are struggling to get a fair price. Between 1995 and 2009, farmers saw their share of each consumer dollar spent on beef fall from 59 to 42 cents. Their cut of the consumer milk dollar likewise fell from 44 to 36 cents. For pork, it fell from 45 to 25 cents and, for apples, from 29 to 19 cents.

Onto this grim reality, Walmart has grafted a much-publicized initiative to sell more locally grown fruits and vegetables. Clambering aboard the "buy local" trend undoubtedly helps Walmart's marketing, but, as Missouri-based National Public Radio journalist Abbie Fentress Swanson reported in February, "there's little evidence of small farmers benefiting, at least in the Midwest." Walmart, which defines "local" as grown in the same state, has increased its sales of local produce mainly by relying on large industrial growers. Small farmers, meanwhile, have fewer opportunities to reach consumers, as independent grocers and smaller chains shrink and disappear.

Food production workers are being squeezed too. The average slaughterhouse wage has fallen 9 percent since 1999. Forced unpaid labor at food processing plants is on the rise. Last year, a Louisiana seafood plant that supplies Walmart was convicted of forcing employees to work in unsafe conditions for less than minimum wage. Some workers reported peeling and boiling crawfish in shifts that spanned 24 hours.

The tragic irony is that many food-producing regions, with their local economies dismantled and poverty on the rise, are now themselves lacking grocery stores. The USDA has designated large swaths of the farm belt, including many agricultural areas near Springfield, as food deserts.


One might imagine that squeezing farmers and food workers would yield lower prices for consumers. But that hasn't been the case. Grocery prices have been rising. There are multiple reasons for this, but corporate concentration is at least partly to blame. For most foods, the spread between what consumers pay and how much farmers receive has been widening. Food processors and big retailers are pocketing the difference. Even as Walmart touts lower prices than its competitors, the company's reorganization of our food system has had the effect of raising grocery prices overall.

As Walmart stores multiply, fewer families can afford to eat well. The company claims it stores bring economic development and employment, but the empirical evidence indicates otherwise. A study published in 2008 in the Journal of Urban Economics examined about 3,000 Walmart store openings nationally and found that each store caused a net decline of about 150 jobs (as competing retailers downsized and closed) and lowered total wages paid to retail workers. Other research by the economic consulting firm Civic Economics has found that, when locally owned businesses are replaced by big-box stores, dollars that once circulated in the community, supporting other businesses and jobs, instead leak out. These shifts may explain the findings of another study, published in Social Science Quarterly in 2006, which cut straight to the bottom line: neighborhoods where Walmart opens end up with higher poverty rates and more food-stamp usage than places where the retailer does not expand.

This year, Walmart plans to open between 220 and 240 stores in the U.S., as it marches steadily on in its quest to further control the grocery market. Policymakers at every level, from city councilors to federal antitrust regulators, should be standing in its way. Very few are. Growing numbers of people, though, are drawing the line, from the Walmart employees who have led a string of remarkable strikes against the company, to the coalition of small business, labor, and community groups that recently forced Walmart to step back from its plans to unroll stores across New York City.

Back in Springfield, as Michelle Obama was delivering her remarks, framed by a seductive backdrop of oranges and lemons, a citizens group called Stand Up to Walmart was also at work, launching a referendum drive to overturn the City Council's vote and block Walmart from gaining any more ground in the city.
****Check out more information within article at VISIT SITE ****

By: Stacy Mitchell | alternet |

Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where she directs an initiative on independent business. She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin. Catch her recent TEDx Talk: Why We Can't Shop Our Way to a Better Economy.

Teresa W (782)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 7:00 am

Past Member (0)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 7:19 am
We already have a Walmart that has pretty much bankrupted our downtown but soon they will be opening a Walmart neighborhood market too. I refuse to shop at either of them, I'd rather spend a little more money anywhere else than put one penny in the Waltons' pockets.

Past Member (0)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 7:58 am
Very sad. We are members of a local co-op that sells only organic food. It costs more put we fel we are supporting organics and local business. When my wife and I were planning to move to TN a few years ago and were searching for homes on the internet, you could put in your preferences/requirments--such as a certain number of bathrooms/bedrooms, garage, etc. One of the options was "within 15 miles of a Walmart". Hard to believe that people would buy a house based on it's proximity to a Walmart.

Ben Oscarsito (152)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 8:21 am
Walmart's sucks! (And I hope we won't EVER see that freaking company in Sweden!)

JL A (281)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 10:27 am
Scary when I think of how many communities are now ghost towns because WalMart opened up outside the city/town's jurisdiction to avoid taxes, drove local businesses out of business and then closed because the store didn't meet volume/profitability targets...

Kit B (276)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 10:36 am

I amazes me that anyone believes they save money at Wal mart. Do they comparison shop?

I guess we have all seen town after town destroyed by this company. They have nearly destroyed all retail business in this country.

Birgit W (160)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 1:53 pm

Ruth R (246)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 7:17 pm
Men, women, and children need to learn to grow their own food at home inside with plant lights or next to a sindow, or outside, or in a tiny greenhouse added to the house, or next to the house.

Paulett Simunich (0)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 7:39 pm
I'm with you Ruth R. Thankx!

Angelika R (143)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 7:43 pm
A scary and despicable development, a shame the First Lady also became a puppet of the reckless giants!
She should have met with that group "Stand up to Walmart" instead and discuss the issue to get some different knowledge.

Diane L (110)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 9:24 pm
The site is giving me fits and I couldn't go to the article, but sorry, Kit............your initial comment was too long for me to get thru. I read the "title" and was immediately a bit annoyed, since I don't believe Walmart has any "DEATH GRIP" on groceries, period. At least, they most certainly do NOT where I live. They offer cheaper prices on many things, including brand names, so for those, I'll shop at Walmart vs. the large grocery chain down the street (Safeway) or at Fred Meyer. If I can save $50 a week by buying the same things there, why should I feel guilty? I won't. I'd feel guilty for spending money unnecessarily. The Walmart Supercenter here also has a bakery to die for, organic veggies, locally grown veggies and produce. They don't force anyone to shop there. Safeway, Fred Meyer,QFC and Albertson's still do the same amount of business and it's harder to find parking there than at Walmart, actually. I have several family operated grocers (including a butcher shop, organic produce, wine and meat market) and a Whole Foods that are also just as busy as ever, to choose from when I so desire.

Sorry, Kit, but your last comment kind of "gets" to me! Yes, I 'COMPARISON SHOP" and do so constantly. There is no logic in paying $3.00 for something that sells for $2 at Walmart (same product, same size). If you want to throw away 1/3rd of your food budget, that's your privilege to do so. Some things ARE more expensive at Walmart, and yes, of course, people have to realize that. It pays to go online first, and most stores list their sale prices and send out flyers. I also have a very good memory for what I buy regularly. I find it insulting to read that I must be stupid or ignorant or want to patronize China if I am interested in making my pension and S.S. go as far as possible.


reft h (66)
Friday March 29, 2013, 12:23 am
thanks for the article

Kerrie G (116)
Friday March 29, 2013, 4:51 am
Noted, thanks.

S S (0)
Friday March 29, 2013, 6:07 am
Thank you.

Lloyd H (46)
Friday March 29, 2013, 7:34 am
God where to start. Blaming Walmart for the corporatization of American farms/ranches is so far beyond disingenuous as to be a lie, that process was well under way long before Walmart had anything near the influence required. And even hinting that Walmart has been responsible for the Economic Inequality in America, where the income at the top has increased by more than that 250% while Middle Class income has stagnated and or declined, increasing the need for and use of food stamps and bargain hunting is so stupid as to be clinically insane. Walmart for all that you may hate it did not create the Economic niche it has take over. Walmart did not create the Koch Brothers or ALEC or Reagan Voodoo Economics, they may be benefiting from them but they did not create them. Walmart for all of your histrionics does not have the power of the Big Banks or Wall Street, Walmart did not write the tax code that pays companies to offshore manufacturing and other jobs. Sorry but you hatred of Walmart shows in the assumption made to blame them for things that they simply are not guilty of, they are certainly not a warm fuzzy friendly do good Corporation but they are simply not the All Powerful Evil you would paint them as either.

R T (14)
Friday March 29, 2013, 7:34 am
WalMart have just arrived in our country having taken a majority share holding of one of our local chains. We visited our local branch several times but left without having purchased much of our monthly food shop and returned to our local retailer who had better prices and didn't make us queue twice to get out the door.
Yes you read it correctly. You queue to go through the till and then queue to leave the store whilst someone "supposedly checks" the contents of your trolley against the till slip to make sure the cashier hasn't double charged 'What am I 4 years old" Oh yes you should know that once you have been through the tills you can not get back into the store They have seen the last of our family..
At present the staff are protected by an agreement between WalMart and the Union,s that was bolstered by a nice big cash donation, so we will probably only see WalMart's true colours in three years time when the agreement comes to an end.
Judging by what we read of their activities in the USA, their arrival in RSA is not good news.

Past Member (0)
Friday March 29, 2013, 9:31 am
here it is plain and simple Wal mart is a huge Corporation and yes you can say that they offer best prices but that is their strategy and how they got so big to begin with by taking advantage of the little guy and since the economy in this country sucks thanks to the politicians well where do you go if you live on minimum wage???Those of us who can now afford organic and local farmers food do so and the more we do eventually the scales will tip.......The more wal mart pisses off people with abuse employee tactics the more less and less will buy from them ....everything has its day and all of these huge corporations will topple.........evil never wins in the end!

Judy C (97)
Friday March 29, 2013, 1:24 pm
There is a WalMart close to us, and it would be very convenient sometimes, but we avoid it. I know a person who worked at a high-paying job at an auto manufacturing plant in Springfield. That company closed the plant, and now she has had to resort to a lousy job at WalMart.

Lynn Squance (235)
Friday March 29, 2013, 11:36 pm
Wal Fart is attempting to hold the nation hostage to its corporate growth plans, otherwise known as greed. I found there was one place I could get something that my mother needed, and it was Wal Fart. So I paid once and the price was excellent. Because I hate Wal Fart for a number of reasons, I did some research and found that I could get the same product there but they would have to order it in. It would be more expensive though. I ordered it and it turned out to be on sale so the price ended up cheaper that Wal Fart. I was willing to spend more at my local Canadian pharmacy rather than at Wal Fart.

How they can so callously rake in billions and ignore people and communities is beyond me.

Diane L (110)
Saturday March 30, 2013, 2:29 am
Judy, sorry your acquaintance/friend lost their high-paying job, but he/she is lucky they have another job, even if it's "lousy" at Walmart. I know several of the employees at my local Walmart and my next-door-neighbor's wife works at another one. They all LOVE their jobs.

Lynn, I know you think you're quite "cute" with your variance of Walmart's name. I think it's pretty childish. Nobody forced you to shop there, did they? You did some research and found a product cheaper, elsewhere. That often happens. It happens in all retailers. They have stuff on sale, people go there to get THAT item and end up buying other things that aren't on sale because of convenience. Some will send more in gas to drive all over the place to buy stuff "on sale" at many retailers, and in the end, not save a cent. Is it worth the gas to drive another mile to save 10-cents? Your choice.

Michela M (3964)
Saturday March 30, 2013, 10:58 am

Michela M (3964)
Saturday March 30, 2013, 11:26 am

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Diane L (110)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 3:25 am
Mary M, you say Walmart has "abusive employee tactics", which I will assume ou mean that they abuse their employees? I find that may be the case in some areas, but certainly not all, just as it is the situation with almost ALL large corporations. As I said in my previous comment, I am friendly with several who work at my local "Supercenter" and they love their jobs, as does my neighbor's wife who works at a different store. They get competitive wages, decent benefits and the same "perks" as one would expect at a major retailer. I've read that Walmart discriminates against women. Strange that at my local store (a Supercenter), both the manager and asst. manager are women.

The "bottom line" is that if you don't want to shop at Walmart............DON'T, but my observations have been that they are a target for many for the same reasons that Safeway used to be. Seems many people just need to complain and find a "scapegoat" and why not pick on the biggest one around?

Debbie Crowe (87)
Wednesday May 1, 2013, 1:22 am
Everybody is entitled to their opinion about Walmart, and mine is that I HATE them!

I worked at K-Mart for 30 years and they came in, lowered their prices and drove our store out of business. Then, they raised their prices again. I lost my job - so I'd say I have a good reason to hate them.

And, I really don't like the way they come in and force out the smaller grocery stores. I may have to drive a bit further, but I'd much rather give the smaller store my business than the greedy Walmart. That's my opinion!

Diane L (110)
Wednesday May 1, 2013, 2:33 am
Debbie, you can't be serious about "hating" a company that thru competition, put your employer out of business where you live? K-Mart is just Walmart with a different letter of the alphabet and was so bad at making their stockholders happy, they were almost bankrupt when Sears bought them out. Most of the K-Mart's in my area closed long ago. How can you say that Walmart came in and forced smaller stores out, if you are including K-mart there, that's pretty much of a "stretch". K-Mart put itself out of business in most places with their lousy customer service (literally NO service), poor quality merchandise, dirty stores and unkempt stock...........resembled a big DOLLAR store most of the time

Kit B (276)
Wednesday May 1, 2013, 8:01 am

I have to wonder if you own stock in Wal mart, Diane. Why should an honest company need defending? May be because it it any but an honest company.

Diane L (110)
Thursday May 2, 2013, 1:36 am
Now, now, Kit! that was pretty un-called-for. Why would you accuse me of having "stock" in Walmart just because I won't succumb to negativity and bashing of a company that I feel is unfair? I'm voicing my opinion as a consumer, and yes, I shop at Walmart. I like saving money...........just like most people. Why would an honest company need defending? Why would honest PEOPLE need defending? It happens all the time, and in the case of a big corporation, it sometimes is justified, but as often, it's just "sour grapes". When I read slams against Walmart (or Burger King or McDonald's or Subway), I try to read between the lines and sort out the nonsense from the actual facts. Often, it boils down to few facts and just a rant because somebody didn't like the product or the "deal" they thought they were getting or in Debbie's case, she lost a job due to her employer's lack of being able to be competitive. I lost jobs in the past due to my employer not being competitive or being "bought out" and while I was frustrated, I didn't HATE the company that caused my unemployment.

Kit B (276)
Thursday May 2, 2013, 8:02 am

So you didn't hold any grudges and others do. Defending malpractice by this company is a waste of time, as is this discussion.

Diane L (110)
Friday May 3, 2013, 2:51 am
No, no grudges, Kit. I shop at Walmart to save money and prefer to go there late at night or in the middle of the night when there are very few people there. It's a matter of saving money AND convenience for me. If you don't want to shop there, then by all means, DON'T. I don't shop at several places that are popular with others.........Best Buy, for example. My grandson and my former boyfriend love the place. I decided after several shopping trips there where I was not treated well and found their customer service to be non-existent, I wouldn't go there again! Same with Target. In this country, we have "free enterprise" which doesn't mean anything is free, just that we, as consumers are free to go shop where we wish and not forced to shop where we don't.

Now, as for "malpractice", isn't that a term reserved for the medical or legal fields? Never before heard that applied to a retailer.

Kit B (276)
Friday May 3, 2013, 6:08 am

Grudges? Look that up in a dictionary. I really don't see the need for so much attention. You shop Walmart, whooping. No malpractice is NOT reserved for the medical field, again you need a dictionary. A retailer that is abuse the public trust, mistreating their employees and customers ignoring the greater needs of the communities they serve; is most certainly guilty of malpractice.

Kit B (276)
Friday May 3, 2013, 6:09 am

*Whoopy* Other than you, who cares?

Diane L (110)
Saturday May 4, 2013, 12:05 am
Kit, please explain why you feel justified in using such nasty and negative verbage just because I don't agree with you? Why do you feel it's "cute" to say "whoopee" and if you had a dictionary, you might have spelled th word right. No, I don't have a grudge against any of the retailers I mentioned. I simply don't shop there, nor do I criticize anyone who chooses to do so for whatever reasons THEY feel justifies their choices. Yes, the word "malpractice" is used to describe services rendered in the medical and legal fields. Walmart is not being paid to provide you with a service. They are a retailer who sells products. You can chose to buy from them or not. They aren't treating you with a thing, nor providing legal representation.

Sorry if I missed something here, but you started this discussion. Now you are saying it's a "waste of time".......your comment above made at 8:02 A.M. on May 2nd. Did you expect, when you posted it, that everybody would agree with you, or did you expect that if someone disagreed, that they shouldn't dare say so? I've posted my opinions very politely and not a single word was said in any derrogatory manner towards you, personally. Why do you feel you're justified by doing other than? I often read and enjoy your comments in the F&S Group as you don't seem to always just take the "popular" side of a discussion and I have respected that and supported you. Why can't you do the same with others?

Diane L (110)
Saturday May 4, 2013, 12:28 am
Hi Nyack! Missed you recently in discussions where you actually had something on the topic to say. BTW, in case you're interested............

Kit B (276)
Saturday May 4, 2013, 5:59 am

I don't have to justify a thing I say or do. Diane, you do not like the content of this article, you have let that be known. The rest is just you, looking for attention. Your reputation for sniping at others precedes this visit. I choose to not interact with you.

JL A (281)
Saturday May 4, 2013, 7:54 am
In the US the taxpayer is picking up the tab for the health benefits of employees of WalMart, who are paid so little they qualify for Medicaid and thus all of us are paying for their profits. The research done indicates WalMart begins with lower prices when they move into a community, that are become higher and often do not even have the usual one-third of items lower than elsewhere by the time local businesses are put out of business.

Kit B (276)
Saturday May 4, 2013, 8:02 am

An excellent reason to advocate for Walmart employees. That is true J L, those who shop with an eye for bargains or good, fair prices will find many advantages by avoiding Wal mart.

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Monday May 6, 2013, 8:50 am
Walmart is certainly one of the many Grim Reapers of Retail. Certainly its grip is far and wide. It has the need to expand everywhere, clutching at every small town it can get its hands on. Unfortunately for many small towns, once wallyland sets up shop, various small businesses end up strangled from the grip that wallyland extends.

A number of small towns are short on jobs and Walmart has a tendency to add to the list of the newly unemployed when smaller businesses can't compete. One problem is that many poor people shop at Walmart as some of their prices are cheaper although in some items they are more expensive than the usual chain grocery stores, at least in Canada. Have never been to a Walmart in the U.S.

The U.S. has 'The Right To Work' laws prevalent in a number of states which tends to interest Walmart.

Lynn Squance, I am another who sometimes calls WM Wal-Fart, so am enjoying my second childhood.
I have a friend who shops there, since she is rural, I drive her as I don't tell her where she should shop.
When I am with my friend I look at labels and make jokes about the ingredients and sometimes start laughing loudly while reading out the toxins, preservatives. Okay, to be fair, wallyland doesn't manufacture the food product, they just hawk the stuff and sell GMO veggies as well. So far they haven't thrown me out on my ear while making untold number of Walmart jokes. Yet. Perhaps I should intone about their low wages. "Supervisor to aisle six...subversive influencing 'associates' with talk of low wages and security and throw that left winger out."

There is a gaping hole in WM as the rotten ronnies (McDonald's) inside closed due to lack of customers. Who knows what they will do with the space. Set up a Labour Relations Board? Unlikely.

The store has abysmal labour practices and if a Canadian locale attempts to unionize the store has been known to be shut down resulting in turfing out all employees out of work.

K-Mart? That takes me back a few decades, they closed up shop in Canada decades ago. However, other predatory big box store chains have sprung up like mushrooms and crush small businesses. Like media concentration these huge box stores are gaining more of a stranglehold every day. Soon there will be only a few big ones left with far less small businesses that used to exist. Walmart also has its Supercentres. If one wishes a Walmart free world, the only territory in Canada not to have them is Nunavut, I believe they are still Walmart free. Even the polar bears there don't want Walmart.

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