Walmart announced that it will open between 275-300 stores serving the Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated food desert areas between now and 2016. These estimates are based on the company’s current real estate plans. These stores, in both urban and rural areas, will provide access to groceries for more than 800,000 people living in food deserts. Walmart made the announcement at the White House today with First Lady Michelle Obama.
Since 2007, the company has opened 218 stores serving food deserts. The projected new and existing locations, totaling about 500 stores, will provide access to fresh and healthy food in more than 700 food deserts and will serve approximately 1.3 million people living in these areas. To be included in this figure, a person must both live in a USDA designated food desert area and be within one mile of an urban Walmart or within ten miles of a rural Walmart store.
“By opening stores where customers need them most, Walmart will help build healthier families and stronger communities. We believe every single person should have access to an abundant selection of fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price,” said Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart.
Many areas classified as food deserts are also job deserts. More than 40,000 associates will work in these stores once they are open. These full- and part-time jobs will provide competitive wages and the opportunity to build a career with the company.
The announcement continues to fulfill one of the key commitments the company made alongside the First Lady in January 2011 as part of Walmart’s healthier food initiative. The other key components of this initiative include:
- Reformulating packaged food items by working with suppliers to reduce sodium and added sugars and removing all remaining industrially produced trans fats;
- Making healthier food more affordable;
- Developing a simple front-of-package seal for identifying healthier food choices, and
- Increasing charitable support for nutrition programs.
“First Lady Michelle Obama is helping millions of Americans lead healthier lives, and Walmart is proud to partner with her in this work. The First Lady’s leadership on products, prices and access to healthier food has helped sharpen our focus on bringing affordable groceries to underserved urban and rural areas,” Dach added.
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also making a difference in the fight to end hunger by donating $2 billion in cash and in-kind donations through 2015.