In the Aftermath of a Disaster, Food Banks Help Communities Heal

It’s hard to prepare yourself to visit a community that’s been affected by disaster.

The week after Hurricane Harvey hit, I visited the Houston area to help Feeding America member organization, Houston Food Bank, with relief efforts. Despite learning as much as possible about the hurricane’s impact before I left, I was still shocked by what I saw – the good and bad alike.

Driving around the neighborhoods, I saw entire contents of people’s homes piled curbside. It had all been ruined in the flooding and needed to be discarded. I met several people who told me through tears that they’d lost everything – including Rosalba, a mother who, along with her five children, rode out the storm in a pickup truck, praying for safety as the water rose. The house she had been renting was no longer livable. With nowhere to go, Rosalba and her family had been sleeping in that same truck, parked on the front lawn of what remains of their home. Her landlord said the home would take six to nine months to renovate, so Rosalba was desperately trying to find a place for her family to live in the meantime.

I met Rosalba at a local food pantry that was distributing supplies and food to hundreds of people impacted by Harvey. She and her daughter were there to pick up ready-to-eat meals and toiletries to help them get by. They were extremely grateful for the support in this unexpected time of need.

When I visited The Houston Food Bank, it was overflowing with donations and volunteers. There were boxes upon boxes of donated supplies waiting to be delivered. I was there only five days after the food bank re-opened, and already, more than 5,000 people had been through its doors to volunteer. The community – and country – is truly banding together to help people rebuild.

Feeding America’s network of food banks reaches every county in every corner of our nation—making us uniquely prepared to respond in the event of a disaster. Within hours we are able to quickly deploy trucks and other solutions to help in communities where we already operate. From preparing for disasters before they hit, to responding during the disaster, to supporting families and communities through recovery, we offer food and hope for families as they seek to return to normalcy.

Food banks in Texas have provided essential supplies to people in need, including water, boxes of food and personal hygiene and cleaning items. They’ve also provided support to transitional shelters. Food banks farther away have helped, too, by pitching in to offer product, vehicles and other assistance as needed.

For me, it was humbling to be in Houston – meeting storm survivors and volunteers and seeing firsthand how much of a difference the Feeding America network was really making in people’s lives. It reminded me why I am passionate about the work that we do.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have been instrumental in relief efforts. Their commitment of over $37 million for hurricane response over the past few months includes specific contributions to Feeding America and its member food banks to help those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. With this support, we’ll be able to help even more food and supplies get to communities in need.

Even with this outpouring of support, there’s still so much more to be done. For thousands of families like Rosalba’s, it will take time to recover. But I’m hopeful that with continued support, everyone who has been impacted will be able to get back on their feet a little sooner.


Health & Wellness

New Digital Health Tools Transforming Diabetes Self-Care

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are more than 30 million in the U.S. living with diabetes. That’s 1 in 11 Americans.

Perhaps even more alarming: Out of the 84 million who have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, 90% don’t know they have it. It’s a growing epidemic with a devastating physical, emotional and financial toll on our communities. And it’s because of this, there’s an ever increasing focus on diabetes prevention, treatment and education.

At one of our nationwide Wellness Day Clinics last month an individual discovered his blood glucose level was a life-threatening 530. An onsite nurse explained the consequences of the test result and he immediately went to a nearby urgent care clinic to initiate care. It is rewarding to think the work we do at Walmart can help people live healthier and even save lives in some cases.

Perhaps most critical for diabetic patients, however, is access to affordable supplies. That’s why I’m excited about our exclusive line of important, everyday essentials. From meters to test strips and insulin, patients are able to save considerably on the items they need most. Because they can afford to test more regularly, this means our patients can better manage their care, and ultimately, lead healthier lives.

Recently, we expanded our line of ReliOn diabetic supplies to include the $18.98 ReliOn Premier BLU blood glucose monitoring system. It features Bluetooth technology that connects the meter to an app on your iOS/Android smartphone, eliminating the need for paper logbooks. With a couple of taps, you can also share your results with your care provider. $14.98 ReliOn Premier Voice is a bilingual (English and Spanish) blood glucose monitoring system that provides audible testing results and is excellent for the blind and low vision diabetic patient. Both of these tools capture clinical data and offer analytics, providing patients with actionable feedback. Most importantly, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for price. All ReliOn blood glucose monitoring systems meet the same strict FDA accuracy standards as the more expensive brands.

The health and safety of our patients is a critical priority, and I love sharing how our team is helping to make a difference in the communities we serve by actively helping them identify and manage their diabetes. Whether it’s through advanced technology, affordable everyday necessities, healthy food, even fitness gear, Walmart is a one-stop-shop for diabetes management. I’m proud of that.

Be the first to comment on this article


‘The Love in the Air is Thicker Than the Smoke’

When Christel Antone went to sleep on Oct. 10, she was worried about her sick grandchild. It wasn’t the only thing on her mind.

For the last two days, she and her neighbors had been threatened by the fires raging throughout Sonoma County, California. A mass evacuation was underway.

At 1 a.m., Christel – a Walmart store co-manager in Rohnert Park, California – woke up to a crying baby and the unmistakable stench of smoke. Something was on fire. Around her house, everything seemed normal. She looked out the windows of her Windsor, California home: To the west, she saw her local Walmart; to the east, mountains. No fire yet – only smoke.

But the fire was coming.

“At that moment, I felt nothing but fear,” Christel said. “Others in the area were being evacuated. So I started getting ready to leave.”

Within two hours, Christel and her husband, two children and grandchild were packed tight into their cars. At 3 a.m., they were part of a mass evacuation – one of thousands of families headed south. They were on the way to her parents’ home in Rohnert Park, normally a 15-minute drive. It took them three hours to reach safety.

Meanwhile, assistant manager Casey Wolven-Scott stood looking at a sea of cars in the Rohnert Park Walmart parking lot. Hundreds of evacuees had only what was on their backs when the time came to leave: kids without shoes, their parents in pajamas. Every one of them tired, afraid and not sure if they would have a home to come back to.

Casey stepped further outside. The highway, which she could see from the store, was flooded with headlights. “Fire truck after fire truck after fire truck was speeding north, up the highway,” Casey said. “Heading south, it was bumper to bumper traffic.”

She decided she had to help her neighbors. “I was one of two people who could run a register,” Casey said. But she had to open the store so people could get basics and use the restroom. Her shift, which had started at 8 p.m. the night before, didn’t end until lunchtime the next day. She saw to it that her store was there for people at this desperate time of need.

A few miles north of the store, at Elsie Allen High School, Christel spent the next day volunteering for those looking for shelter. “We kept hearing alerts and needs for first responders, so we gathered everything we could from my parents’ house, clothes and food, and took it to the high school,” Christel said.

Despite being driven away from her own home, Christel knew she had to help. “At that point you lose all the selfishness and what you’re going through to help others,” she said.

Step by step, Casey and Christel helped with recovery efforts. Christel and her family were able to return to their home within a week. Associates at stores throughout Sonoma County have continued to serve their communities through the fires, in addition to preparing for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas.

“Since then, we’ve been trying to keep in stock what our customers need — housewares, socks, pillows, sleeping bags – these things keep coming in and coming off the shelf right away,” Casey said.

Christel and Casey were two of hundreds of associates who helped pull off a recent episode of The TODAY Show’s “Getting to the Heart of Christmas” series. In recent years, Walmart has had the opportunity to work with NBC to help deliver Christmas for families in need, particularly like the 10 families affected the Sonoma County wild fires earlier this year.

The event brought hundreds of associates, themselves affected by the fire, together to serve their community.

“Everyone here knows someone affected by fire,” Christel said. “Being able to work for a company that’s making a difference in the community, and being part of it personally, is rewarding.”

Be the first to comment on this article


Knock, Knock … Who’s There? Your Walmart Grocery Delivery

It’s 10 a.m., and it already feels like a long day. You know your schedule is only going to get busier. How will you get dinner on the table if you don’t have time to stop for groceries?

We have a new answer for you: Don’t worry. Keep doing what you’re doing. We can deliver those groceries to your front door.

By the end of the year, this option will be a reality for more than 40% of U.S. households. Online grocery delivery, previously a test project in six metro areas, will soon be a service we’ll offer across 100 metro areas. We’ll be using more than 800 of our stores to fulfill orders. That’s an impressive number, but it’s more about where you deliver to than where you deliver from – millions of customers will now have access to this time-saver.

Here’s how it works:

  1. To order, customers visit or go to the existing Walmart Grocery app to build an online basket and place an order, selecting the most convenient time for the order to be delivered.
  2. That’s when one of our 18,000 personal shoppers gets to work. Based on the delivery time, he or she will begin picking items, scanning them along the way to ensure an accurate and complete order. (By the way, we’ve given these associates special training to pick the best of the best for your order, especially when it comes to fresh meat and produce.)
  3. Finally, our team will request a delivery service to come to the store, pick up customers’ orders, and take them directly to their desired location.

We’re excited about this new offering, which is simply the latest result of our ongoing work to help make shopping easier. Whether it’s ordering one item online and picking it up the same day in our stores, pulling your car into our parking lot to collect a grocery pickup order, or now ordering – and receiving – groceries at your convenience, you’ve now got so many choices to fit your needs. We’re learning from Walmart teams across the globe and building on the best parts of our business to help put some time back on your calendar. Through technology, great stores and our awesome team of associates, we’re working hard to serve you whenever and however you want.

I love being part of a team that’s constantly thinking about how to bring out the best of Walmart. It’s even better that, for a lot of our customers, this news means we’re now bringing it literally to your door.



Put a Pin on It: The Tiny Tokens Embodying Walmart Pride

There’s a certain sense of pride that comes from graduating – whether it’s from high school or college, it’s a familiar experience for many.

You can see that very same pride in Walmart Academy graduates as they walk across a stage and are recognized for their dedication. They’ve not only set aside time to learn the best ways to serve their customers – they’ve taken advantage of an opportunity that can help set them on a clear path.

Ayreann Luedders, a senior director with the Walmart Academy program, gets to see the graduates’ transformation first hand. “When my team gets to the locations to help set up for graduation, at first the associates don’t know what to expect,” Ayreann said. “By the end they realize, ‘oh, this is a big deal,’ and you can see it on their faces. They are just so proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

To celebrate these achievements, each Academy location’s inaugural graduating class designs a pin that’s given to each graduating class thereafter. They commemorate everything from specific events to individual stores and their communities to pieces of Walmart’s past.

Here’s a look at a few of these pins and the stories behind them.

Pontotoc, Mississippi
This Academy graduation’s theme was all about Walmart history, from serving MoonPies (Sam Walton’s favorite volume producing item) to the regional manager dancing in a hula skirt like Sam once did on Wall Street. This pin shows the Walton’s 5 & 10 as a symbol of where we started, and the words “Pathway to the Future” to show where their training will take them.

St. Petersburg, Florida
With this store just steps from the beach, this pin features the Florida shoreline and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This group’s graduation ceremony even included a massive sandcastle at the front of their store.

Friendswood, Texas
You might find a rocket scientist at this store – it’s less than 10 miles from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. To show off their unique location, they decided to use a space shuttle orbiting the Earth within the shape of Texas.

Tracy, California
The elements on this pin showcase the history of their community. The triangle shape refers to Tracy’s location inside the three interstates that border the city, and the bear is a nod to their state flag. The train represents their more than century-long history as a major railway hub.

Edmond, Oklahoma
What makes this pin special is that it comes from the 100th Academy Walmart opened. To commemorate that milestone, CEO Doug McMillon came to speak, making it even more special for the graduates.

Dulles, Virginia
Using a simple backdrop of Virginia’s state flower, this pin represents a store that is anything but ordinary. It serves a diverse community, and over 80 native languages are spoken by our associates there.

“It was through the graduation ceremonies that I had this epiphany moment that we’re changing lives in what we’re doing through Walmart Academy,” said Tina Kurtz, a director with the Walmart Academy program. “It gave them an entirely new perspective on their jobs – understanding how doing things a certain way helps. It’s meaningful, life-changing work.”

1 Comment