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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Opportunity

Meet Bruce, the Big Cheese in Boise

Mention Idaho and most people think of potatoes, but the state also produces a massive amount of milk. In fact, it’s No. 4 in the U.S. for milk production and No. 3 for cheese. No wonder Bruce Payne takes so much pride in his job as dairy manager at the Walmart supercenter on Overland Road in Boise.

Bruce started working in the dairy department 10 years ago. He moved to grocery for a while, but when the store needed a new dairy manager, he stepped up. That was eight years ago, and he’s loved it ever since. All of the milk his store sells is local, and Bruce makes sure his displays feature locally made cheese. His pride shows not only in the products, but also in the way Bruce’s team works together to make their section of the store the best it can be.

“This job is what you make of it. My manager started as a cart pusher, and all of our assistant managers started on the ground floor. If you stay focused … and look around to see what you can do to grow, you can make something of it,” Bruce said. “We’re here 40 hours a week, so I figure we may as well enjoy what we’re doing and make a positive impact. We’re a family – a team.”

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Health & Wellness

Fresh, Fast and Fun: Stay on Track with Produce Hacks

As the freshness of a new year wears away, so can those changes we laid out for our diets. No one wants to eat healthy food if it doesn’t taste good. And sometimes throwing together a salad for tomorrow’s lunch is the last thing we want to do at the end of a long day.

But when we take a look at food trends and what our customers are buying, we see a couple of things that help keep the diet momentum going: easy options that free up time, and, when there’s a few extra minutes to make cooking fun, new ways of giving healthier selections a gourmet touch.

With that in mind, here are some choices that are gaining steam – and you can work them into your routine simply by spending a few extra minutes in the produce section.

Brussels sprouts. Strong in flavor and smell, Brussels sprouts have long been that vegetable many people love to hate. But sales of Brussels sprouts are growing for retailers as customers are drawn to new ways of preparing them. Roasting or grilling and adding a pop of flavor like balsamic vinegar or garlic makes them seem decadent.

RecipeCards_Brussel Sprouts w Yogurt Drizzle
Spaghetti squash or spiral-cut zucchini. Have you ever heard of a zoodle? If you got a spiral slicer as a holiday gift, you’re probably aware that zucchini is becoming increasingly popular as a pasta replacement. Spaghetti squash, too, is a delicious alternative to dishes that call for noodles.

Cauliflower. From pizza crust to a mashed potato stand-in, cauliflower is growing out of its standing as a bland, forgotten salad ingredient. If you’d rather not use it in place of one of these carbs, try cutting a head of it into large slices and grilling it like a steak.

Chopped salad. When you don’t have a huge lettuce leaf to chase around your plate or, later, shove awkwardly in your mouth, a salad becomes much easier to eat. Imagine everything you’d want in a salad, processed in a chopper – that’s a chopped salad. It’s simple to make and store in the fridge, and we’re seeing customers prepare more of them.

RecipeCards_Convenient Chopped Salad

Salad kits and bowls. If you spend any time on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen the Mason jar salad concept. Here’s how our customers are eating healthier and saving more time: Purchasing single-serve ready-to-eat salad bowls, which include a protein, the dressing and a disposable fork. Also popular are salad kits, which have everything in the bag except a main protein. Just shake into a bowl and you’ve got a fresh side dish for the whole family.

Premium juice. If you don’t have a juicer – or the time to use one – you’ll find prepared juices right next to the produce in select Walmart stores. These aren’t the fruit cocktail variety (mixed juices are available in the dairy department) but instead are very pure, unprocessed and premium in nature.

Kale. This leafy green has been surging in popularity for a few years now, and it’s not going away. A few years ago you’d find just a couple of kale options in our stores; today we offer it in salad blends, plus readymade kale chips, dips and more. It’s a super food that’s also super versatile.

RecipeCards_Crunchy Kale Salad

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U.S. Manufacturing

A Simple Sponge, and My Second Chance

I’ll never forget the day in 2003 when everything went red. I was in my 30s, watching television with a friend in my living room when it happened. Three surgeries and several weeks later, I was declared legally blind.

While it happened quickly, it wasn’t completely unexpected. I had been diagnosed with diabetes back in Jamaica and couldn't afford the proper medication, which led to my vision loss. So I found myself trying to navigate life without the benefit of eyesight and, soon, without my husband, who left me. It was just my daughter and me. Years later, I moved to New York City in search of opportunity, but questioned whether I'd made the right decision after going unemployed for more than three years. That changed when I found National Industries for the Blind.

Pauline Doling at Sewing Machine

Statistics show more than 70% of the more than 4 million legally blind adults in the U.S. are not employed. As the nation’s largest employment resource for people who are blind, NIB is working to change those statistics, and my story is one example. Eight years ago, I discovered New York City Industries for the Blind, which later became Alphapointe, one of NIB’s associated nonprofit agencies. I began manufacturing SKILCRAFT® Speedy Scrubber sponges at Alphapointe’s facility in Brooklyn. And I’ve been counting my blessings ever since.

All of a sudden, I had a steady income. I wasn’t wondering how I was going to pay my bills and support my daughter. I take great pride in operating my sewing machine on the manufacturing line because I know the military and government customers who use our product depend on us for quality. In May, we were excited when our sponges began hitting the shelves of select Walmart stores throughout the Northeast as part of the retailer’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing. I’m part of a team with more than 100 employees, each one legally blind, just like me.

Man at Sewing Machine

NIB and Alphapointe believed in me, and that’s the second chance I was looking for. I’m confident again and I have a support system around me. I’ve made friends for a lifetime – friends I go out to dinner with and hang out with on the weekends. I even met the love of my life, Ronnie McNeil, here. We were married earlier this month, which kind of completes my dream come true.

For more than 76 years, NIB has created jobs for people who are blind through the sale of thousands of SKILCRAFT products. The Speedy Scrubber sponges are manufactured by people who are blind working at Alphapointe – one of 95 nonprofit agencies associated with NIB – in its Brooklyn facility. 

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Innovation

In the Baby Department, a Mom’s Work is Never Done

Have you ever heard of tooth wipes? If you’ve never brought home a baby, then probably not – unless you’ve shopped for a gift for a first-time mom and noticed such a lesser-known item on her gift registry.

New parents tend to over-prepare because they’re nervous to get everything right. I know this firsthand because two years ago, I had my first son. And I thought I needed every possible item to take care of him – including tooth wipes.

So many of us are familiar with this feeling, and for me, it’s a life experience that translates well to my day job overseeing baby merchandise at Walmart. My team takes care of people in the happiest, but also the most stressful time of their lives. We’re constantly asking ourselves, how can we make that easier? One key – but coincidental – way is that many of the associates on the baby team have intuition from parenting babies and young children themselves.

Diana Marshall with Son

These perspectives have helped us make simple, but important changes to our assortment – like ensuring our customers can find popular brands like Britax and Plum Organics, and launching Urbini exclusively at Walmart. (It also applies to items like tooth wipes. When I needed them two years ago, Walmart didn’t carry them. Now we do, and they are even assembled in the U.S.!) Our parenting experience has also given us ideas to take to our suppliers that address important concerns, like a car seat with technology that alerts you when your child is still in the back seat if the ignition is switched off.

Talking to our customers, we see our personal insights proven right in many different scenarios. First-time moms like me want everything perfect and brand-name, while second-time moms tend to focus on just getting through the day. Second-time moms also concentrate more on functionality, which applies to their shopping experience, too. They’ve reduced the places they shop from a handful to only a couple, meaning convenience is important. That’s one reason we’ve expanded our assortment not just in-store but also online, and we’ve recently updated our baby registry to be easily accessible with the Walmart mobile app. I love now being able to shop for friends using my phone whether I’m in the store or in transit somewhere.

Smart Phone showing Gift and Baby Registry App

Research has shown my team that the needs of moms globally are really the same: They all want the very best for their children. I love that we’re able to provide that not just from business experience, but from personal experience, too. We’re able to learn about products and what works well, and then influence that for other parents. Just a few months ago, I took home all the diapers Walmart carries to try on my son and then gave feedback to our suppliers on quality. It helps to be so close to the category to be able to improve our assortment and customer experience.

It’s an intriguing circle, how many of my team members’ jobs influence our parenting and how being parents influences our jobs. Whether it’s updating our mobile registry, adding distinct items like tooth wipes, or ensuring we carry great private-label options like the Parent’s Choice training pants we just launched in partnership with Dreamworks, we’re working hard to make the hardest job in the world – parenting – a little easier.

You can read more about Walmart’s expanded assortment of baby products and services here.    

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