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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Community

Building Hygiene Kits and a Better Future

Shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes – many of us take these basic supplies for granted, but these hygiene items can truly save lives.

In the wake of disasters and crises, where people have often lost everything or fled with just their clothes on their backs, a simple bar of soap can help keep families safe from deadly diseases like cholera.

With the help of our partners, International Medical Corps works to send these essential hygiene kits to countries such as Nigeria, where fighting has forced thousands from their homes in the north, as well as other disaster-prone areas where populations have been displaced.

On June 2, Walmart volunteers attending the company’s annual shareholders meeting came together to assemble hygiene kits for families uprooted by conflict in Nigeria and to prepare for when the next major weather disaster may strike. Along with essentials such as toothpaste, combs and nail clippers, the kits also included solar lights, which provide a safe alternative to fire for visibility during nighttime cooking and studying. These lights also help reduce the risk of violence and sexual assault.

This isn’t the first time International Medical Corps and Walmart have worked together to help disaster-stricken communities across the globe. When Ebola threatened millions across West Africa, the Walmart Foundation was among the first to help, providing swift and flexible support to our emergency response efforts. When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal in April 2015, the Walmart Foundation stepped up once again with a donation that helped us meet immediate needs in some of the most remote villages at the epicenter of the quake.

It was great to see these several hundred volunteers working together. But more than simply showing up, everyone was engaged and wanted to know more about what we were up to and how to give back. The teamwork, energy and enthusiasm were infectious. Everywhere we looked, people were helping others, collaborating, and building hygiene kits for people in need.

Thanks to Walmart, the Walmart Foundation, and the hundreds of associates who came out to pack the family hygiene kits, International Medical Corps will be able to send 1,500 kits to countries affected by disaster and crisis. One thousand kits will be sent to Nigeria, where International Medical Corps is providing health, nutrition, and hygiene services in the remote northern region of the country to families who continue to be displaced by ongoing conflict.

The rest of the kits will be prepositioned and ready to be deployed in the aftermath of the next crisis – wherever and whenever that may be.

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Health & Wellness

Walmart Associate Conquers North Pole Marathon

Some people will go a long way to support charity. For Dorn Wenninger, vice president of global food sourcing for Walmart U.S., not even the North Pole is too far.

Dorn was one of 56 runners from 21 countries who participated in the 14th annual North Pole Marathon on April 9. Dubbed the “World’s Coolest Marathon,” the 26.2-mile race not only challenges endurance athletes with its snow-covered, icy terrain and bone-chilling weather, it also supports a variety of worthy causes with hundreds of thousands of dollars raised each year.

Crossing the finish line after five hours and 17 minutes, Dorn captured first place and secured his spot in an exclusive group of 428 people worldwide who have completed the marathon since 2002.

This year’s competitors ran to raise money for a variety of causes worldwide. Dorn, who has been with Walmart almost six years, serves on the boards of two nonprofit organizations: Cobblestone Farm in Northwest Arkansas and Amigos de las Americas. He will continue to raise money for Cobblestone Farm, which produces organic produce that is then donated to local food banks.

“I’m passionate about healthy eating, farming and produce,” he said.

His passion also extends to running. In January, he participated in a marathon in Trinidad and Tobago, where the temperature was 130 degrees warmer than the lowest temperature he experienced while at the North Pole.

Knowing that running on snow and ice would be different, he trained for the North Pole event on dirt and gravel trails. But the terrain wasn’t his only concern. With temperatures between -25 and -43 degrees Fahrenheit, his respiration froze and built up on his face mask. He used three different masks throughout the five-hour run and ended up with early signs of frost bite on his nose.

His North Pole adventure was supposed to last one and half days, but a crack in the runway prevented Dorn from flying out for three days. Despite the delay, he said the trip was an amazing experience.

Running is a great way to deal with stress, he said – even on 6 feet of ice floating on 14,000 feet of Arctic Ocean. It also can have a positive impact on other areas of life, from personal to business.

“Achieving the seemingly impossible helps demonstrate that almost anything is possible, even when others don’t believe it is,” he said. “Determination, focus and persistence go a long way in achieving goals.”

Dorn never imagined he’d win the North Pole race, but with that victory in hand, he now has his eye on a few other challenges just as difficult – or more so.

“It's incredible what people are capable of when they put their mind to it,” he said. “The thought of running a marathon at the North Pole sounds so extreme that it's virtually unbelievable. I welcomed the challenge of proving, to myself, that it is possible.”

Photos courtesy of North Pole Marathon.

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Business

A New Angle on Our Fresh Produce Departments

As a store manager, nothing compares to the thrill of actually seeing or hearing a customer react to a change I’ve worked with a team of associates to bring to life. In fact, since the remodel of our store earlier this year, I’ve purposely spent more time in our fresh produce department, just to watch and listen.

My store was among the first of our remodeled locations to unveil Walmart’s new Fresh Angle approach, which places fresh, unpackaged vegetables front and center. When you walk into our store today, you're intentionally greeted with a farmer’s market vibe. We’ve lowered the profile of our fixtures so customers can see across the entire department. We’ve captured the field-to-store experience, and in a way that’s easier and more enjoyable for customers to navigate. But – while the positive feedback on the visual aspect of the program represents a victory in itself – that barely scratches the surface of what Fresh Angle is all about.

The fact is, “looking” fresh only goes so far. The key is making sure the fresh produce our customers buy in our stores continues to look and taste the same when they pull it out of the fridge three days later. That’s the real driving force behind this new approach, which has been rolled out at 180 stores to date and more than 3,000 by the end of the year.

In addition to improving the sight lines across our produce department, we’ve reconfigured our fixtures to look fuller while holding fewer products. At the same time, we’ve maintained our broad assortment.

Why fewer products? Pressure and time go a long way in determining the freshness of an item. By reducing the depth of our produce fixtures, our avocados are no longer stacked four or five deep. Same goes for tomatoes and so many other popular fresh items. By reducing the depth of our fixtures, we’ve reduced the volume of product we’re holding on the sales floor at any given time. And, given the clock on freshness begins ticking the moment fresh fruit and vegetables are picked, we’re essentially passing increased freshness on to our customers – and working even harder to reduce food waste.

It was eye-opening how a department could look so abundant with less. It’s helping us reduce throwaways and operate more efficiently across the board. We’ve also received positive customer feedback at stores where Fresh Angle has been implemented.

Customers want fresher products so they can enjoy them longer. With Fresh Angle, we’ve developed a vehicle to deliver on those expectations. The impact has been immediate – and it’s growing. It just makes sense.

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Heritage

Remembering Don Soderquist, Retired Walmart COO

Walmart’s culture – defined by our core values of service, respect and excellence – has always been key to our success.

That culture lost a very significant champion this week, as Don Soderquist, a key member of our company’s leadership team until his retirement in 2002, passed away.

Don joined Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president of administration and logistics and was a driving force behind our company’s growth. In fact, he led us through a period of significant progress from 1988 to 1999 when he served as vice chairman and chief operating officer. During his tenure, the company’s revenue increased from $1 billion to more than $200 billion.

Don epitomized the term servant leader. He was always thinking of others, provided great feedback and was encouraging to so many people. He had a deep passion for integrity, and it was Don who drafted our original core values. Don became known as the “Keeper of the Culture” after our founder, Sam Walton, passed away because he not only helped define our values – he lived out our culture and spoke passionately about it year after year. He truly believed that ordinary people could do extraordinary things when they worked together, and he taught the beliefs and values that supported that conviction for the rest of his life. Even after his retirement, he invested his time and energy into many associates who still work for the company.

After retirement, he established The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics in Northwest Arkansas to provide values-focused development training to future generations of leaders. In 2005, he wrote the book “The Walmart Way” to teach others how to apply the lessons that made Walmart successful to their own lives and careers. He was also involved in numerous charitable organizations and served on several corporate boards.

Don touched so many lives here, and he will be dearly missed by his family and all of us at Walmart.

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