WalMart Organic and Food Insecurity

I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately, but a couple of stories have popped up recently that caught my attention and I just had to say something about them.

The first one involved Wal Mart partnering with Wild Oats Marketplace to offer affordable organic food to carry in Wal Mart stores.  Here is a link to the press release. With the promise of offering consumers more healthy choices and blah blah blah… Bullcrap.  The quote in the release tells you exactly what this is.

“We know our customers are interested in purchasing organic products and, traditionally, those customers have had to pay more,” said Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of grocery at Walmart U.S. “We are changing that and creating a new price position for organic groceries that increases access. This is part of our ongoing effort to use our scale to deliver quality, affordable groceries to our customers.” 

Cheap organic food.. Give Wal Mart a chance to cash in on a trend (10 years too late) and further an attempt to put places like Whole Foods and Trader Joes out of business.  Looking into Wild Oats at the bottom of the page, they are essentially a holding company that owns the brand name, and they are “relaunching” at Wal Mart.  I’m almost willing to bet that mean for all intents and purposes Wal Mart will own the brand and make it one of their exclusives.

I don’t like this at all.  First off, looking at Wild Oat’s product line, while they may be “organic” they certainly don’t look particularly healthy.  Canned vegetables? Canned sauces and condiments? Potato chips and snacks? Everything loaded with salt and probably a lot of fat too.  Second, to be able to produce organic vegetables at that price point will involve a massive commercial farm, and not in the US.  Large scale organic farming is no better for the environment than conventional farming.  These fruits and vegetables will be grown in Chile on 10,000 acres of what USED to be rainforest.  Lastly I just don’t trust Wal Mart to have anyone’s interests in mind.  True confession, I used to love Wal Mart, I used to exclusively shop there, I used to own stock in the company.  As their stores got bigger, dirtier, more crowded and less staffed I started shopping there less and less.  Shortly before I moved out here I sold my stock and no longer have a stake in the company.  Now I won’t go within 100 yards of a Wal Mart, which works out well since there’s not 5 of them here in Portland like other places.  There is one on the NE edge of town right by the interstate and there is one down in Clackamas.  That’s it.  Lisa has told me people here have resisted Wal Mart and with good reason.  Plus with Fred Meyer and Trader Joes in town we don’t need a Wal Mart.  This is simply a move to pressure other companies, both individual food manufacturers and other grocery stores, and how long will it be before Wal Mart is pressuring the USDA to change the requirements for Organic labeling? This stinks bad and I don’t like it.

The second story was posted on Facebook by a friend of mine and it involved high school students who were posting twitter pictures of pitiful school lunches and mocking Michelle Obama for destroying the lunches and for the schools for “starving” them.  First, Mrs Obama has been a vocal champion of healthier food for school kids, but she doesn’t make the decisions about the programs.  She has not control over what is going on.  Second, a little deeper digging and it turns out what was pictured was not what the kids had ONLY been served.  They were throwing half of it away, and what were they throwing out? The fruits and vegetables! So in reality what you have going on is kids having tantrums and hissyfits and WASTING FOOD! What a bunch of brats.  They certainly aren’t helping anything with the image of modern kids as spoiled, entitled brats.  This article from a conservative blog which is attempting to shame Mrs Obama actually has some pretty telling quotes in it.

The new standards led to kids throwing out their fruits and vegetables”  They are voluntarily not eating what is offered them.  That is not “starving” them.

The standards forced some schools to stop serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and led middle school and high school students to opt for vending machines or buying food off campus to avoid the lunch line…” Once again, the kids are making choices to eat junk.

What these kids need is a lesson in food insecurity.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, food insecurity is not just going hungry, but literally not knowing when and where you will get your next meal.  People in Asia, India and elsewhere may have access to a pound of rice but it might have to last them 2-3 days, or 2-3 weeks depending on what they can get access too.  Plenty of places in the world don’t even have access to clean water, much less soda and candy bars.  These kids are not starving, they aren’t even remotely close to starving.  Their parents ought to be ashamed of them.  They think they are making a “political statement” but all they are doing is being idiotic and making themselves look incredibly stupid and foolish.

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.