Can Walmart Save Us From Food Deserts?

Adriana Velez
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walmart flickrYou may have heard of the term "food desert." It's a region (neighborhood or town) where there are few to no stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign has pledged $400 million a year to help bring more supermarkets to food deserts, and Walmart is stepping up to help.

The retail giant, which already claims 1/5 of U.S. food sales, just got approval to open several new stores in Chicago, including in the South side. According to the superstore, they are "committed to removing them [food deserts] from our communities." Walmart is even supporting more local farms through its Heritage Agriculture program. But are more Walmarts really the answer?

There's no question that Walmart's low prices make fresh fruits and vegetables -- even organics -- much more affordable for working people. Walmart is also promising hundreds of new jobs, which could improve the local economy.

But according to a new study by Loyola University (in Chicago), a west-side store cost the local economy as many jobs as it created. Not only that, Walmart wages tend to be on the low side -- so low that the House Education and Workforce Committee estimates that taxpayer dollars subsidize Walmart stores in the form of Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing by about $420,750 per store.

What do you think? Does Walmart make eating healthy more affordable for your family, or does it cause more problems than it solves?


Image via mjb84/Flickr

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