Health & Wellness

How We’re Fighting Food Deserts

You may have heard the term “food desert” before, but what does it really mean? Well, it’s sort of what it sounds like — an area, in urban or rural settings where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Instead of grocery stores with fresh fruit and vegetables, the landscape is often limited to convenience stores and fast food restaurants.  

People who live in areas without access to affordable, healthy food often suffer from a number of nutrition related health problems including obesity, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. So it’s no surprise that helping close the access gap has been a big part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!  program designed to help fight childhood obesity and help Americans get healthy.

As the country’s largest retailer of groceries, Walmart has a role to play in helping improve access to affordable healthy food. In July 2012, we joined the First Lady and the Let’s Move! initiative by committing to open 275 to 300 new stores in areas that serve food deserts by 2016. When the U.S. Census showed an increase in areas that fall into the food desert category, we opened 224 stores across the country in areas that serve those food deserts, including states where it’s a big problem like my home state of Texas (27 stores), California (18 stores), and Colorado (12 stores). Of those, 48 were opened in fiscal year 2012, 80 in fiscal year 2013, and 96 in fiscal year 2014.

This is a commitment we take very seriously at Walmart. From the beginning we’ve always said that a customer shouldn’t have to choose between a food that is healthier for them and a food they can afford.  Families should have reasonable access to a store that provides healthy choices and helps that family live better.  I’m proud to say that we are doing our small part to bring better options to families to urban and rural areas across the country.  

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Innovation

A Look Inside Walmart's Next-Gen Test Stores

The world is navigating a cultural revolution into the digital age.

Meeting customers’ needs is critical as they adopt more digitally-driven lifestyles, expectations increase and increasingly shopping options do not require a trip inside a store.

With this in mind, Walmart is testing new approaches in two recently opened supercenters in Tomball, Texas, and Lake Nona, Florida. These stores were fully reimagined from a new layout to building and environmental enhancements to added technology that all improve the shopping experience.

Keep reading to learn more about these new retail environments. Or, if you’re in the area, drop by and look for yourself.

New Layout
We started with customer shopping behavior to reimagine the layout for these two stores. For example, services like the beauty salon and tech repair are adjacent to relevant merchandise. Health and wellness departments are consolidated to create a single destination. Baby, toys, kids' apparel and kids' shoes form a single destination to ease mom’s shopping journey.


Scan & Go
Speeding up checkout is critical to improving customer experience. So we’re testing Scan & Go technology that works both on personal smartphones and Walmart-provided handheld devices. Customers are greeted on their way into the store by a large bank of these Scan & Go wands, and new digital produce scales have been added to make scanning weighable items much easier. The Scan & Go fast pass checkout lanes allow customers to bypass the traditional checkout process, which makes a quick trip faster than ever.


SmartLife
New interactive projection technology allows customers to learn about connected devices (think Google Home, Apple TV, Nest, baby monitors and connected thermostats) and get answers to what is important to them. Since images are projected onto tables and walls, there’s no chance of accidentally damaging a product, and the product details can be updated more quickly through this new platform. This technology is found in the entertainment section of the store, as well as in hardware, baby, and health and wellness for relevant department items.


Integrated Pickup
Shoppers can use the outside drive-thru to pick up not just their weekly groceries, but also their prescriptions and Walmart.com orders.


Extended Aisles
Step into the Tomball Supercenter and you’ll find interactive screens offering access to an extended curated selection of online-only items in almost 100 categories. Customers can order products, pay with the rest of their basket at checkout and pick up two days later.


Appointment Setting and Ordering Technology
Need your deli order, fast? These stores test a new appointment and ordering kiosk system where you place your order, go shopping, then come back to quickly pick it up. If the initial test in the deli area goes well, it could be expanded to pharmacy, Auto Care Center, beauty salon or anywhere ordering and appointment setting occurs.


Next-Gen Call Buttons
Shoppers simply press a Wi-Fi-connected call button and wearable GPS-enabled devices alert associates that assistance is needed. Associates wearing these devices are trained in specific store areas and are on call to help in the furniture, paint, fabrics, sporting goods and bikes areas of the store.

So what’s the bottom line? By rethinking stores and testing new ideas with customers in real-life stores, we are improving customers’ experiences and making it easier than ever for them to get what they need as quickly and easily as possible.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Walmart’s in-store tests in this piece from Good Morning America.

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Health & Wellness

A New Way of Working Together for Dietary Supplement Safety

Whether it’s a vitamin or mineral, tablet or even energy bar, the majority of adults in the U.S. take one or more dietary supplements either every day or occasionally.

These supplements provide extra nutrients when one’s diet is lacking or when certain health conditions cause the development of a deficiency in vitamins, minerals, or other dietary substances.

From herbals and botanicals to amino acids, probiotics, enzymes, and others, there are a wide variety of supplements available today that allow consumers to play a more active role in their health and nutrition.

But the rapid growth and expansion of products in the marketplace has called into question their quality and safety. In addition, the differing quality seals and verification marks on product labels can lead to confusion. That’s why we are excited to announce that Walmart is working, in collaboration with the Natural Products Association, GNC and other leading retailers, to create the Supplement Safety & Compliance Initiative (SSCI).

What is the Supplement Safety & Compliance Initiative?

SSCI brings some of the largest retailers, raw material manufacturers and suppliers, dietary supplement manufacturers and other stakeholders together to assist in strengthening safeguards and helping to ensure regulatory compliance from harvest to retailer shelf.


Why is SSCI important to Walmart?

Manufacturing practices vary widely across the dietary supplement industry. Although all of our private label – aka store brand – suppliers must have a third-party audit and certification, SSCI will ensure they meet our stringent expectations and a recognized high standard through the supply chain.

The goal of SSCI is to recognize and help ensure various safety and manufacturing standards provide greater assurance throughout the supply chain. Agreeing upon common standards is a critical piece in the initiative and a process that is proven to be effective with enhancing consumer safety.

SSCI is a bold step forward for the dietary supplement industry. We look forward to having additional retailers and others join this effort to support the enhancement of the authenticity and safety of dietary supplements and ultimately improve the health and nutrition of consumers everywhere.

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Community

Virtual Construction That’s Helping to Build Real Jobs

At the beginning of 2016, Iowa Workforce Development and Hawkeye Community College in Cedar Falls came together to consider the statistic that just 2.3% of Iowa’s construction workers are women.

The construction industry has always been male dominated, but in a state where heavy equipment operators are not only in growing demand, but paid an average hourly wage of more than $23, they saw an opportunity.

Through its PROMISE JOBS program, Iowa Workforce Development works tirelessly to connect Iowans – many of them low-income women with families – with training services. Last year, Hawkeye Community College had a fleet of simulators specifically designed to put individuals behind the controls of a backhoe, bulldozer, excavator, wheel loader and other common construction equipment. And with a state grant from the Walmart Foundation, they had the funding they needed to mobilize.

From January through July 2016, the construction equipment simulator trailer made its way to all corners of the state, with stops at each of IowaWORKS’ 15 regional facilities. Anywhere from 150 to 500 Iowans turned out at each location to try their hand at the controls, gauges and equipment systems in a safe, in-cab environment, with supervision from trained instructors. In some instances, representatives from construction companies came out to connect with interested residents on the spot.

Like any industry, construction isn't for everyone. But this collaboration opened the door to the possibility of a new career path – and a better life – for Iowans. The demand for construction workers, regardless of gender, is high. So this collaboration addressed a genuine issue.

For many, it could mean a transition into higher-paying jobs, thus supporting their families and their futures. That’s a scenario where everyone wins.

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Community

Harvesting Hope and Relieving Hunger for a Military Community

Members of the U.S. military and their families are very special people who sacrifice everything to ensure our safety and freedoms are protected.

Sometimes those same people are sacrificing even more than they should – they’re worried about where their families’ next meals will come from.

Here at Harvest Hope Food Bank in Columbia, South Carolina, my job is to work with local governments and businesses to understand how we can best work together to serve those in need. Working here for over six years has given me a unique perspective on hunger and it’s allowed me to see a gap we can help fill to help our military community.

We have a large military presence in South Carolina. Our state is home to several military facilities, a number of veterans’ hospitals and one of the largest military populations in the country. We have over 50,000 active and reserve troops and over 400,000 veterans living or working in our state.

With that many military men and women living and working in South Carolina, and the fact that Harvest Hope serves 20 of the 46 counties in the state, it’s understandable that we might see a few on occasion. Everyone goes through difficult times, and sometimes you just need a little boost to get back on your feet. What troubled me was how many people with military ties we were actually serving – approximately 12% of the people we see each day.

My philosophy, as well as those who work with me, is there’s no reason anyone who puts their life on the line should ever need to stand in line for food. As someone who served nine years of active duty, it’s a cause near and dear to my heart. So I took action.

I found a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on the use of food assistance programs by active duty military. I saw that Feeding America had recently developed a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to increase food access to veterans. Both of these backed up what I was seeing in my community and pushed me to find a more strategic way reach those men and women who’ve already sacrificed so much.

In 2016, with the support of our food bank’s leadership, we developed Operation Hunger Prevention (HP). This is Harvest Hope’s first large-scale campaign focused specifically on providing food relief to active duty military, veterans and their families. We were so excited when we received grant funding from the Walmart Foundation and Bank of America Foundation to help us get the pilot program up and running – and demonstrate further the actual need for these services. The best part? We could provide assistance to active military, veterans or their family members without any cost to them or the U.S Department of Defense.

This year, we were very fortunate to receive an additional $75,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, and take Operation HP into a stage two pilot. It will allow us to expand the program out to county veterans affairs offices and ease the burden of having to search for additional funds and sponsors. Because of this funding, we’ll have more time to focus on helping our military community and their families. It will help us provide an estimated 375,000 additional meals.

I’m proud Operation HP is able to provide additional support for such an important part of our community – relieving stress and improving overall military readiness of our troops. These men, women, and families put a lot out there to protect our freedom and ask so little in return. This is just one small way of saying thank you.

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