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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Business

When it Comes to Holiday Cheer, Ugly Sweaters Aren’t Wearing Out

A few years back, it was easy to dismiss ugly holiday sweaters as a fad. But this trend has not only taken root – it's stronger and tackier than ever.

The reason is simple: People are looking for happiness and joy during the holidays, and these sweaters make people smile. They spark conversation at parties. They’re fun – and we all need more fun in our lives.

Each year, we’ve seen this new December staple get uglier and more unexpected. And, while Walmart has been front and center in providing affordable, fun options for customers to purposefully “ugly” up their holiday wardrobes, we’ve gone all out this year.

We not only increased the volume of ugly sweaters in our stores, we added several with fun features. Some have working Christmas lights. Some of our sweaters – including a reindeer print – even sing to you. And since November, the women’s elf sweater dress we created has been flying off the shelves as fast as we’ve been able to stock it.

We’ve also ventured beyond the traditional adult sweater. We have a line of ugly sweater-themed T-shirts, with everything from Christmas trees and snowflakes, to gingerbread zombies and Star Wars characters, for men, women and children. We’re even offering ugly holiday sweaters for dogs.

I have to tell you, as a buyer and as a part of the team responsible for creating these sweaters, it was an absolute blast bringing some of these wacky ideas to life. The whole process of adding functioning lights into clothing, battery packs for sound and more – every detail mattered. We knew people would be talking about those items, but we also had to make sure it was going to be easy to remove and reinstall those components before and after the sweaters go through the washing machine. They’re fun but still functional.

We looked at all the details, like, is Santa’s nose pointing the right direction? Is it ugly in the right way? You want to turn heads, but you also want to be sure you're creating options that a teacher feels good about wearing in front of a class, for example.

So we’re proud of what we’ve created and thrilled by the positive response from customers. We’ve even heard about people doing ugly holiday sweater fashion shows. Supporting this tacky tradition is one way we’re helping make the holidays affordable, while also putting a smile on customers’ faces. And it makes our jobs a whole lot of fun.

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Health & Wellness

Major Benefits: The Surgery That Got Me Back On Track

My name is Rick and I can't sit still. Some say that’s a problem. I actually take great pride in it.


From marathons to triathlons to waking up on a Saturday morning and riding my bike as far as my legs can take me – I’m addicted to fitness. But that almost changed.

I knew something wasn’t quite right when I got out of the water at a triathlon a few years ago. I managed to tough it out that day, but when I rolled out of bed for another race a few weeks later, I was in such excruciating pain that I fell to my hands and knees.

The diagnosis: slipped vertebra. Before long, it was difficult for me to get from my car to the door at work, much less hop on a bike and take on the world like I wanted. I was sidelined with chronic pain and, ultimately, paralysis set in on my right leg and foot.


I’m pretty good about fighting through pain and fatigue, but this was different. This was beyond pain. There was a point where I started to wonder: What if I can’t swim or ride or run again? What if it’s always like this?

That’s when my wife, Becky, and I – high school sweethearts and both Walmart associates for more than a quarter century – looked into the Centers of Excellence benefit in our health plan. Walmart partners with some of the best medical facilities in the country to provide its associates quality health care with little to no out-of-pocket cost for certain heart, spine, joint replacement and transplant surgeries.

We decided to give it a shot, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. The company sent my wife and me to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. From access to the expert staff, to the actual surgical procedure, to the hotel room, food, and mileage up there and back home – everything was 100% covered.

With six screws and two rods in my back, I’m no fan of metal detectors. But this procedure really did give me my life back. The pain in my leg virtually vanished the morning after surgery and, over time, I was back to my usual self, pedaling upwards of 300 miles per week.

My wife and I are back to enjoying long bike rides on the weekends, swimming, running – out there enjoying our lives the only way we know how. And I can do so without the fear of what it will feel like tomorrow when I wake up.

To say I’m forever grateful would be an incredible understatement.

Editor's Note: In 2017, Walmart will double the number of world-class medical facilities available to our associates who have been told they need a spine surgery. Learn more here.

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Business

The Pie Chart: Sweet Stats on America’s Favorite Flavors

For many, dessert is the best part of the meal. It’s that special treat that can brighten up any day.

During the holiday season, sweets get a whole new spotlight. Pies in particular can be found on many families’ tables from Thanksgiving through Christmas all the way until year’s end.

Last year, pies at Walmart gained new celebrity appeal with the release of Patti LaBelle’s signature sweet potato recipe. Thanks to a viral video – and pleased palates across America – they have been a hit ever since.

All of this talk about pies got our minds (and stomachs) wondering. With seemingly unlimited pie flavors, we wanted to know which one reigns supreme with our customers’ taste buds. We took a look at our last year of sales, and put together a pie chart (see what we did there) to show the results.

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Opportunity

When a Second Chance at Education Changes Your Life

Sometimes opportunity flashes at the most unexpected times. Like earlier this year, when I happened to look over my husband’s shoulder and noticed an advertisement that has already changed the course of my life.

My husband, an assistant manager at the Walmart supercenter in Palakta, FL, was searching for advancement opportunities on WalmartOne.com – the company intranet. What jumped out at me was the fact that eligible family members of Walmart associates could earn their high school equivalency free of charge via GEDWorks or the Career Online High School program. A bad situation as a teenager kept me from finishing high school – and bills and the decision to start a family made it difficult to ever hop back in and get it done.

But with this, someone was willing to pay my way. I was a little nervous about being lost or overwhelmed at first, but a counselor was always available to answer my questions from the second I enrolled in the program. A short while later, I’d passed my tests and had my high school equivalency. The feeling of pride is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, and I’m already focused on going to school to become an obstetrics nurse.

I’ve seen the doors Walmart has opened for my husband in his career. The fact that the company is willing to invest in the education of eligible family members like myself, through its Lifelong Learning program, is a blessing.

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