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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U.S. Manufacturing

A Fond Farewell to an American Craftsman

After nearly half a century of making pacifiers and sippy cups, Dick Gates is stepping away this year.

At NUK headquarters in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, Dick Gates has been an integral part of designing and manufacturing baby products since 1970, when he started as a stock handler, and in just a few years, became the youngest supervisor in the company’s history.

He loved being part of a process that guaranteed quality and safety for the mothers and children all over the country, and especially in his own back yard.

“I go to church every Sunday and see my product being used,” he said, proudly.

Understanding the value of what his company was making, Dick dedicated himself to learning the nuts and bolts of the process, going to engineering school and taking night classes until his qualifications allowed him to join the engineering and product development team. He went on to develop the mechanisms that are still being used at NUK right now. Producing thousands of baby products every day, many of which are shipped immediately to Walmart.

With NUK’s dedication to keeping local jobs, and Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing, Dick gained the peace of mind he had always craved. The assurance that he would always have a job. Knowing he could put down roots in this community, confident that he wouldn’t be pulling his kids out of school and moving to another town.

“Walmart’s not going any place,” he said, “and that gave me an incredible sense of security.”

That feeling of safety allowed Dick to think of NUK headquarters as his second home. And to think of his colleagues as family. 

He enjoys his nine-mile drive every morning, watching the sun come up over the tops of the trees. He’s the first one there every day, so he turns on the lights and starts the coffee pot.

“I’m at work, but I’m at home,” he said.

He says it’s a bittersweet feeling, retiring from the company after 45 wonderful years. But he knows that the products and processes he has developed, as well as the spirit he has invested in this company, will go on for a very long time.

“It’s not just for me.  Not just for my son or my daughter.  It’s for generations to come.”

Dick’s legacy will live on in another very special way. His daughter now works on the assembly line at NUK. The child whose first possession was a NUK baby bottle manufactured by her dad is now carrying on the work of the man who made that bottle with loving care.

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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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U.S. Manufacturing

Once Bankrupt, Now Booming: A Small-Town Factory Returns

In 2009, I noticed an odd thing as I stopped to check out a closed-down factory in Wadley, Alabama. The building was clearly vacant, but there were 10-12 people outside mowing and trimming weeds. So I asked them, “Who’s paying you?” “Nobody,” one of them said. “We just love this factory.”

It was clear that this place was once a special part of this town. 

As a manufacturer of patio furniture, I saw this as an opportunity.  Why not use this facility, which had all the equipment — and potential workforce – needed to produce high-quality products? Because the factory was part of a bankruptcy filing, I went before a judge to see about buying it. When I told him my plan to turn the factory into a facility that once again produced American-made products, he slammed his gavel and said, “You got it.”  

Because Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing allowed for the flexibility of a multi-year deal for Walmart to purchase product from the Wadley facility, we’ve been able to put money into renovations. Currently, we’re spending millions on efficiency upgrades and new equipment.

The factory, which opened in 1963 and was previously owned by another company that produced wrought-iron patio furniture, was the heart of the Wadley community. When you consider that the town’s population is roughly 700, it makes sense that this facility employed a large percentage of its residents. Today, our new patio furniture factory has 200 employees, and I see that number growing by 50-100 in the coming years. That growth can only be a help to the local economy – it’s 200 people who need to eat breakfast and lunch at local restaurants and buy stuff from local merchants on their way home from work.

As part of our reopening of this facility, we’re also able to support educational initiatives in Wadley and throughout Randolph County. Our biggest workforce supplier is a technical school also located in Wadley. We supply the material, and the school trains the welders. We are able to hire skilled workers at various levels, not to mention support these vocation programs for the future. We also house a weekly food bank. We store and supply some of the food and other needs, including allowing space for the distribution of these goods to as many as 100 people per week.

I’m proud to be a part of making a big impact on this small town. 

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U.S. Manufacturing

Walmart’s Investment in U.S. Manufacturing, Explained

With nearly 260 million customers shopping at a Walmart location each week, it’s clear that the ability to get the right items at the right price is a benefit to many of us.

But providing affordable goods isn’t the only way we aim to make an impact. We’re also heavily invested in the communities we serve. One part of that is our commitment to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled or grown in the U.S.

Not only does manufacturing products domestically create jobs – in many cases, it’s more efficient. Manufacturing goods closest to the point of sale allows for quicker turnaround time from factory to shelf. It’s good for business, good for customers and good for our stores.

While products are a big part of this commitment, innovation is another key way we can make a difference. Along with the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, we’re awarding grants for research on ways to make manufacturing easier, such as this project from Cornell University that is helping to turn recycled clothes into new ones.

Here’s a quick look at the key points of our pledge.

On June 28, Walmart will host its U.S. Manufacturing Summit and Open Call for products that support American jobs. Learn more about these two events here.

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