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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#FiveThingsFriday: Malibu Comes to Arkansas, and a Birth Story Worth Checking Out

ICYMI: Rum, a new baby, a lost locket and pumpkins a-plenty. Oh, and the largest single-day health event in America. It’s an odd list with one thing in common – it’s all news in the world of Walmart this week.

If You Like Pina Coladas…

Arkansas got a bit more tropical this week when Pernod Ricard began bottling Malibu Rum at its plant in Fort Smith. This reshoring effort will bring an additional 6,000 man hours to the plant over the next year, which translates into more hours for existing workers and additional seasonal and full-time employment. An estimated 150,000 cases will be bottled in the plant that also produces Kahlua Liqueur, Seagram's Gin and Smithworks Vodka. Cheers!

Price Check on Bouncing Baby Boy

On Sunday morning, our Payson, Utah, store inadvertently hosted a reenactment of the 2000 film “Where the Heart Is” when customer Cecelia Rivas went into labor when she was checking out. Customers and associates helped Cecelia deliver baby Matias right there at the cash register. Mom and baby are doing well, and the store will be welcoming them back for a proper baby shower soon.

More Wellness for Your Weekend

This Saturday, October 15, every Walmart store in the U.S. will be hosting Walmart Wellness Day, the largest single-day health fair in the country. From noon to 4 p.m., local time, you can get free blood glucose, blood pressure, vision screenings (where available), product samples and information on health insurance options. We’ll have lots of companies in store handing out free samples, from Dannon to Johnson & Johnson. And since no exciting Saturday is complete without a round of shots, we’re also offering low-cost immunizations.

Lost, But Found

Tampa associate Pamela Martini made it a personal mission to reunite a heart-shaped locket she found in her store with its rightful owner. Customers lose lots of items in our stores, but Pamela knew that this piece of jewelry was different; it had a man’s name and two dates engraved on it, and the inside contained ashes. She searched online, posted to Facebook, talked to customers, and even reached out to her local news station. Her determinedness paid off when she was able to reunite the locket with the woman who owned it.

It’s the Great Pumpkin … Farmer!

Sarah Frey has been supplying Walmart with pumpkins for about 20 years. She got her start with us when she was still a teenager helping out the family farm. Her business has grown from 80 acres to about 15,000, and she’s expanding beyond the bright orange gourds you pick up for Jack-O-Lanterns. Sarah is introducing Pumpkins of the World, exotic pumpkins aimed at cooks. We’re all familiar with the canned pumpkin used for Thanksgiving pie, but have you heard of Jarrahdales or Chioggias? No, we didn’t make those up, but they could be the next big food trend. Fun fact: Did you know that the pumpkins you carve up for Halloween are known as “jacks”? Store that one away for your next trivia night.

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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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5 Reasons to Check Out Scan & Go at Sam’s Club

Too busy to wait in line? Sam’s Club has the perfect solution and it’s called Scan & Go. This app turns your smartphone into a magic wand allowing you to save time by skipping the checkout lanes.

Available at all Sam’s Club locations nationwide, Scan & Go puts the checkout process in the hands of the user. Our team created the technology to address one of the most common pain points shoppers face – waiting to check out.

Here’s how it works: First, download the Scan & Go app on your iPhone or Android and head to your nearest Sam’s Club. Then, simply scan UPC codes on items as you shop, and pay for them directly from your smartphone anywhere in the club. Once you’re done shopping, just show your digital receipt to an associate on the way out.

Here are five reasons you’ll want to download the app before your next trip to Sam’s Club:

1. Save Time, Skip the Line: We all know time is valuable. By skipping the checkout line, you can spend those extra minutes on the people and things that matter most to you.

2. Track Spending: The Scan & Go app is a useful budgeting tool, allowing users to keep track of what they’re spending while they shop. No more surprises!

3. Cart Gaming: If you thought your kids loved playing games on your phone, wait until they see this! Parents are raving about how their kids love helping scan items.

4. Forgotten Hero: Have you ever left a store with a cart full of items, only to remember too late that one item you didn’t get? With Scan & Go, you can rush back inside the club, get it and go!

5. Silent Shopper: Let’s admit it, we’ve all had days when we’ve felt a little less than social. That’s OK, we understand. Similar to self checkout, Scan & Go offers do-it-yourself fans a chance to take charge of their shopping experience.

The app has received positive reviews from users so far. At last check, the app had a 4.5-star rating in the App Store and 4.0 rating in Google Play. Some users described the app as “better than sliced bread” and “Samtastic!” Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Walmart Driver Delivers a Win at National Championships

He practices nearly every day, honing his skills and aiming to be the best in his field. He’s won numerous competitions, most recently being crowned a national grand champion.

But he’s not an athlete; he’s a truck driver. And the National Truck Driving Championships are his big bowl game.

Mike White of Nineveh, Indiana, has been driving professionally for 39 years, the last 26 of those for Walmart’s private fleet. On Aug. 13, after four days of hard-driving competition in Indianapolis, he was recognized as the most skilled and most knowledgeable in the country.

The 79th annual competition, hosted by the American Trucking Associations, was a nail-biter until the very end. “When my name was called out, it floored me. I didn’t think I was even going to make the top five,” let alone be named the champion, Mike said.

Competitors are made up of the winners in eight classes of competition from 50 state trucking associations’ Truck Driving Championships. Each driver must undergo a written examination, personal interview, pre-trip inspection test and a skills test.

Mike credits his exam and pre-trip scores with getting him into the top five and landing him the 3-axle class title. His run on the skills course put him over the top, securing his bid for overall grand champion.

It’s a game of inches. Mike faced 15 challenges, like maneuvering his big rig within 18 inches of a barrier and rolling between two tightly spaced rows of tennis balls attached to wood stands – bump any of them and lose points, and possibly the title. There was also a “road kill” challenge where drivers had to get the right front tire as close as possible to, but not touching, a rubber duck sitting in the roadway.

“It was such a surprise – that was the best part,” Mike said of his big win. “This wasn’t just for my home state of Indiana; it was for me, my family and Walmart.”

It’s also a nod to Mike’s commitment to safe driving. Drivers must be accident free for at least a year prior to the competition. Considering that Mike has been to nationals six times, it’s clear that safety on the road is his priority.

Despite having about 36 competitions under his belt and now the ultimate award, Mike isn’t ready to quit. He’s looking forward to defending his titles in 2017.

That attitude doesn’t surprise Jennifer Gray, regional safety manager for Walmart, who witnessed Mike’s winning moment. “Mike is the true face of our professional Walmart driver, and I have been blessed to be able to work with him for the past four years,” she said after the competition. “He has always had his eye on that prize of being a grand champion one day.”

Geno Bell, senior director of transportation for Walmart, seconded that.

“I’ve known Mike White for over 10 years. He’s a true professional, mentor and a great ambassador of the culture for our private fleet,” Geno said. “Mike practiced and studied hard for the ATA competition, and to see him win it all was AMAZING!”

Mike has earned more than just praise from his leadership – he’s also getting a new semi in the color of his choice.

“Walmart is so proud of their drivers who achieve awards for their expertise in safe driving,” Jennifer explained. “We have a wonderful program to recognize these associates and to also allow the motoring public to recognize when they are sharing the road with one of our safe driving champions.”

It takes time and expertise to earn a personalized truck. The honor is reserved for associates who achieve 3 million and 4 million Walmart safe driving miles, as well as those who are named ATA grand champion or ATA Driver of the Year.

In the meantime, like a seasoned athlete, Mike is back in training mode preparing for the next round of competitions.

“I have a big hill to climb and a lot of people after me,” he said.

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