When Michelle Obama visited a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, a few weeks ago to praise the company’s efforts to sell healthier food, she did not say why she chose a store in Springfield of all cities. But, in ways that Obama surely did not intend, it was a fitting choice. This Midwestern city provides a chilling look at where Walmart wants to take our food system.
Springfield is one of nearly 40 metro areas where Walmart now captures about half or more of consumer spending on groceries, according to Metro Market Studies. Springfield area residents spend just over $1 billion on groceries each year, and one of every two of those dollars flows into a Walmart cash register. The chain has 20 stores in the area and shows no signs of slowing its growth. Its latest proposal, a store just south of the city’s downtown, has provoked widespread protest. Opponents say Walmart already has an overbearing presence in the region and argue that this new store would undermine nearby grocery stores, including a 63-year-old family-owned business which still provides delivery for its elderly customers. A few days before the First Lady’s visit, the City Council voted 5-4 to approve what will be Walmart’s 21st store in the community.
As Springfield goes, so goes the rest of the country, if Walmart has its way. Nationally, the retailer’s share of the grocery market now stands at 25 percent. That’s up from 4 percent just 16 years ago. Walmart’s tightening grip on the food system is unprecedented in U.S. history. Even A&P — often referred to as the Walmart of its day — accounted for only about 12 percent of grocery sales at its height in the 1940s. Its market share was kept in check in part by the federal government, which won an antitrust case against A&P in 1946. The contrast to today’s casual acceptance of Walmart’s market power could not be more stark.
Having gained more say over our food supply than Monsanto, Kraft, or Tyson, Walmart has been working overtime to present itself as a benevolent king. It has upped its donations to food pantries, reduced sodium and sugars in some of its store-brand products, and recast its relentless expansion as a solution to “food deserts.” In 2011, it pledged to build 275-300 stores “in or near” low-income communities lacking grocery stores. The Springfield store Obama visited is one of 86 such stores Walmart has since opened. Situated half a mile from the southwestern corner of a census tract identified as underserved by the USDA, the store qualifies as “near” a food desert. Other grocery stores are likewise perched on the edge of this tract. Although Walmart has made food deserts the vanguard of its PR strategy in urban areas, most of the stores the chain has built or proposed in cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. are in fact just blocks from established supermarkets, many unionized or locally owned. As it pushes into cities, Walmart’s primary aim is not to fill gaps but to grab market share.
The real effect of Walmart’s takeover of our food system has been to intensify the rural and urban poverty that drives unhealthy food choices. Poverty has a strong negative effect on diet, regardless of whether there is a grocery store in the neighborhood or not, a major 15-year study published in 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine found. Access to fresh food cannot change the bottom-line reality that cheap, calorie-dense processed foods and fast food are financially logical choices for far too many American households. And their numbers are growing right alongside Walmart. Like Midas in reverse, Walmart extracts wealth and pushes down incomes in every community it touches, from the rural areas that produce food for its shelves to the neighborhoods that host its stores.
Walmart has made it harder for farmers and food workers to earn a living. Its rapid rise as a grocer triggered a wave of mergers among food companies, which, by combining forces, hoped to become big enough to supply Walmart without getting crushed in the process. Today, food processing is more concentrated than ever. Four meatpackers slaughter 85 percent of the nation’s beef. One dairy company handles 40 percent of our milk, including 70 percent of the milk produced in New England. With fewer buyers, farmers are struggling to get a fair price. Between 1995 and 2009, farmers saw their share of each consumer dollar spent on beef fall from 59 to 42 cents. Their cut of the consumer milk dollar likewise fell from 44 to 36 cents. For pork, it fell from 45 to 25 cents and, for apples, from 29 to 19 cents.
Onto this grim reality, Walmart has grafted a much-publicized initiative to sell more locally grown fruits and vegetables. Clambering aboard the “buy local” trend undoubtedly helps Walmart’s marketing, but, as Missouri-based National Public Radio journalist Abbie Fentress Swanson reported in February, “there’s little evidence of small farmers benefiting, at least in the Midwest.” Walmart, which defines “local” as grown in the same state, has increased its sales of local produce mainly by relying on large industrial growers. Small farmers, meanwhile, have fewer opportunities to reach consumers, as independent grocers and smaller chains shrink and disappear.
Food production workers are being squeezed too. The average slaughterhouse wage has fallen 9 percent since 1999. Forced unpaid labor at food processing plants is on the rise. Last year, a Louisiana seafood plant that supplies Walmart was convicted of forcing employees to work in unsafe conditions for less than minimum wage. Some workers reported peeling and boiling crawfish in shifts that spanned 24 hours.
The tragic irony is that many food-producing regions, with their local economies dismantled and poverty on the rise, are now themselves lacking grocery stores. The USDA has designated large swaths of the farm belt, including many agricultural areas near Springfield, as food deserts.
One might imagine that squeezing farmers and food workers would yield lower prices for consumers. But that hasn’t been the case. Grocery prices have been rising. There are multiple reasons for this, but corporate concentration is at least partly to blame. For most foods, the spread between what consumers pay and how much farmers receive has been widening. Food processors and big retailers are pocketing the difference. Even as Walmart touts lower prices than its competitors, the company’s reorganization of our food system has had the effect of raising grocery prices overall.
As Walmart stores multiply, fewer families can afford to eat well. The company claims it stores bring economic development and employment, but the empirical evidence indicates otherwise. A study published in 2008 in the Journal of Urban Economics examined about 3,000 Walmart store openings nationally and found that each store caused a net decline of about 150 jobs (as competing retailers downsized and closed) and lowered total wages paid to retail workers. Otherresearch by the economic consulting firm Civic Economics has found that, when locally owned businesses are replaced by big-box stores, dollars that once circulated in the community, supporting other businesses and jobs, instead leak out. These shifts may explain the findings of another study, published in Social Science Quarterly in 2006, which cut straight to the bottom line: neighborhoods where Walmart opens end up with higher poverty rates and more food-stamp usage than places where the retailer does not expand.
This year, Walmart plans to open between 220 and 240 stores in the U.S., as it marches steadily on in its quest to further control the grocery market. Policymakers at every level, from city councilors to federal antitrust regulators, should be standing in its way. Very few are. Growing numbers of people, though, are drawing the line, from the Walmart employees who have led a string of remarkable strikes against the company, to the coalition of small business, labor, and community groups that recently forced Walmart to step back from its plans to unroll stores across New York City.
Back in Springfield, as Michelle Obama was delivering her remarks, framed by a seductive backdrop of oranges and lemons, a citizens group called Stand Up to Walmart was also at work, launching a referendum drive to overturn the City Council’s vote and block Walmart from gaining any more ground in the city.
Stacy Mitchell is a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where she directs an initiative on independent business. She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.Catch her recent TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy.
39 thoughts on “Walmart’s Death Grip on Groceries Is Making Life Worse for Millions of People (Hard Times USA)”
Shop Aldi’s their prices are lower than Walmart. How the do it I do not know but their food is good and very reasonable. Example store in Sanford, Fl …..butter 2.28 a pound that same week in Walmart 2.68. Milk often 1.99. Walmart to compete did one of those but it didnt last. They now have competition.
You gotta watch aldi`s too though Susan. I go to Aldi`s also but I have bought stuf at Aldi`s that I wouldn`t feed to a starving dog.Notice that there is usually a walmart next to a Aldi`s. As for Wally World, They are against the little guy and as for me – I believe – they are anti american.
I will NEVER shop at Wally World. When my other wants to buy at Wally World, I will wait outside, then she yells at me because members of my family work for Wally World. They could do better in a better time.
My kids know I despise Walmart with a passion. Walmart represents the worst of what we allow in corporate law and they will continue until we stop them. To quote a line from an old movie I can’t remember, Walmart is the “ass on the wart of society”.
I challenge anyone to name another retail store that has done what WalMart has done. Crony capitalism is not new, I believe it started with WalMart. I have been to Bentonville, AK. I have seen the store that supposedly started the empire. Americans worship of money and possessions has lead to this. Americans profess to be against communism and socialism but race to WalMart to buy “this weeks load of chinese junk”. You don’t see what’s coming do you? As WalMart closes out the competition, you only have one place to purchase anything. When you have no competition, you charge what you want and the consumer is trapped. No choice and no discount for “this weeks junk” but it’s you and your neighbor’s fault so get used to it, you caused it. Oh, you and the politicians you voted into office. I voted for Ross Periot and Ron Paul, both of these men told us what was going to happen to Amerika.
” You load sixteen tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
St. Peter don’t you call me, cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the company store….” (Tennessee Ernie Ford)
NOT I! I REFUSE TO DARKEN THE DOOR OF THAT ESTABLISHMENT!
Two things. I live in Canada, 2 miles from the border. We used to go shopping in Washington years ago because of better quality and prices. For various reasons we haven’t done that lately. We just went for the first time in 11 years and I was shocked at how expensive everything has become. Don’t know why.
Also, Walmart is causing more of a problem for you than you realize. What will happen is this. As your farms collapse because of diminishing returns they will be sold for pennies on the dollar. East Indians will rush in to buy them, being financed internally by their temples and gurus. They will then import family members as cheap labour and start turning a profit. This will then go back to their temples to finance more purchases. The cycle will then repeat itself getting worse and worse for you as their rising wealth will be used to purchase more influence over your immigration regulations. (That is if the Chinese don,t do it first.) You will then truly be serfs in a country that used to be yours. If you don’t believe me just look at what has happened in British Columbia. We’ve live and worked here for thirty years and live in a townhouse; East Indian immigrants who can’t speak English are living in 4,000 sq ft mini Taj Mahals in virtually exclusive East Indian communities.
Phil n,Sounds silly to me when you consider the J-W bankers and J-W bribed politicians are the treasonous filth responsible for the majority of the worlds woes.I understand the filthy j-ws own you and canada and you WILLINGLY behave like gutless sheep handing in your means of personal defense on ORDERS from your j-w masters but here in america we are FREEMEN and will not be invaded or enslaved there are over 100 MILLION armed PISSED OFF sethEing with rage AMERICANS who willingly and without charge are gonna set things right, first with charges of TREASON AND SEDITION then fair trials and then HANGING THE TRAITOROUS FILTH.so what Im trying to say is peddle your “east india” nonsense in can land.
LOL….thats the funniest thing I have read today….LOL. What good are guns when you have no rights left to defend? Within a year or two you will have no rights left and you will never get them back. And you won’t be arresting anyone for anything. You will be watching american idol and “loving it”. Wannabe tough guys are so funny.
Within a year or two?
If you think we have a year or two left, before the SHTF, you’re complete freaking moron. Get your information from the MSM Zionist whores, do you?
Whatever country you you live in, your stupid @ss is ALREADY as good as dead, so go back to your CNN and Anderson Cooper, clown boy, you’re on the wrong site to be talkin’ that trash.
Try Infowars or PrisonPlanet, that’s more your speed.
Brian ,Glad you find humor in our countries dire situation,I have never watched this “american idol nonsense”(no interest) I do however RETAIN all 100% of my GOD given rights which are not negotiable or takeable(is that a word ) and as far as a tough guy not me Im more of the oppressed nothing left to loose type of guy which if you know anything means I am 100% FREE with nothing to loose but my freedom,you on the other hand must be kinda new around these parts and sound like the typical silly defeatist paid troll type of sellout cowardly nothing that has no understanding of what it means to be an AMERICAN so F.O. brian as im not the kind of man to play with.
Wow, Steve, you must be in a good mood today.
That was relatively mild for you, considering.
Hey #1 AS you know today is the RESSURRECTION which is the #1 most holy day so I am trying to be mellower but there sure seems to be several “desperate mouthers ” round these parts as of late and ive just been hanging out waiting for the paid one as opposed to the just plain ignorant ones and i think brian is my huckleberry. LOL take care and happy easter to you and all the gang in the trenches.
I know. I came on in a relatively good mood, but straight up stupid has a way of negating that at times.
But as you can see, I was still laughing in both replies to stupid.
Make that DEAD idiot, very soon.
Have fun throwing rocks at the blue hats when they come to kill you.
Hey there brian, you can just eat my shorts. FU. Like #1 NWO Hater said , go to Infowars or PrisonPlanet. Can you say infowars or prisonplanet brian?
brian the brain ,you dont have a clue son I have NO MONEY I grow my own FOOD and can my own FOOD I love animals EACH AND EVERY TASTY BITE OF A FRESHLY KILLED ANIMAL I LOVE yum yum yum I didnt vote so THOSE TREASONOUS BASTARDS IN THE GUBERMENT offices dont represent me I dropped out of YOUR system 20 years ago and only work for BARTER i dont pay fkn taxes and damn sure aint supporting their disfuntional system of rewarding the lazy at the expense of the productive you arte in over your head son as I am speaking for 100 million americans that are chomping at the bit to deal out JUSTICE to you and yours.
That sounds more like you, now.
Thats the Steve we know and love!
Give him hell bro!
Hey Rhums, You guys make it sound like Im some kinda dont give an inch to these silly mouthpieces and am intolerant of any and all treasonous pieces of filth who have encroached on our way of life and i would just as soon hang the lot of them than give up one iota of my freedom for any pretend care or security they pretend to be able to provide, well at least you guys understand me it is truley my pleasure to be here amonst my own kind and I have been meaning to give you credit rhums for coining the phrase “HOMETEAM” in one of your earlier post and I believe it is a word that best describes us real Americans or was it Jolly R(herbal oldheimers ) who coined that term anyway it just struck reality that we are the “home team” and surley have homefield advantage if only in #s its a pretty scarey edge dont ya think.Take care
I think that was JR. It doesn’t matter though because I agree.
As someone said to me the other day, “I enjoy watching you bitch slap these fools..” or along those lines.
I mean lets face it, I admit I have personal issues with a couple of regulars here. As I’m sure everyone honest enough to admit it themselves does. That occurs in the best of families.
The point is I will stand with them in the coming fight. Our differences are our strength.
That was Millard that said that ” bitch slapped ” comment rhumstruck. Millard is another good bro. Yep rhumstruck, we are a good tight family here. We are cool here at The Trenches. P.S. Sorry rhumstruck, I missed that reply button.
Done posting for now. I have to head to my brothers’ for dinner. We usually get together at my youngest brothers’ house for holidays, but he and his family went to visit some friends for Easter.
On the plus side though, my other brother started brewing his own beer again, and I kid you not, it’s the best beer I’ve ever had anywhere, an OUTSTANDING Scottish ale, so I’m going to get plowed, spend the night, and wake up tomorrow without a trace of a hangover (that’s the beauty of home brewed beer) It’s the only beer I’ll drink anymore.
I’ll be back on later, maybe.
Or we’ll watch some movies. (More likely)
Have a good one, all.
What #1. I didn`t think you drank any alcohol beverages – except for special holiday occasions. Anyway #1 I hope you are doing good on this fine April fools day 🙂 . P.S. I have been thinkin` about making my own home brewed beer and that good ole mountain dew myself.
That’s true, for the most part digger, but like I said, my brother just started brewing again recently, and yesterday was a holiday, after all. LOL
Nothing wrong with having a frosty, especially if it is home brewed. I bet it was good. Hope ya had one for me and the guys here at FTTWR. I can taste Scottish ale now. P.S. I didn`t see ya post much yesterday, good to see ya posting again buddy. 🙂
Now I’m back, digger.
Good to have ya back #1. 🙂 P.S. It is getting late for me – at least for now, so I gotta say good night my friends and bro`s. I may be back after that proverbial power nap. hehe. If I am not back in a short, then I hope to see ya all in the morning my freinds and bro.s.
Came back today to catch up on yesterdays posts. Wow! looks like trolls were out en masse yesterday. They must get Holiday pay hehe! Hope everybody had a great Easter 🙂
I will never comment on this site again. PUT THE DAMN SECURITY QUESTION AT THE TOP!!! I refuse to retype what I just took time to put together.
We’ve tried to move the security question and have been unable to. And as of yet, no one who has bitched about it has been able to produce a procedure to move it.
The security question eliminates the robotic spam and so it stays.
When I forget to answer the security question, I just hit the back button on my browser.
If you can come up with a procedure we will move the security question for you.
And to think that that back button is all I would have had to do. I have missed that question many times myself. Oh well, guess that I just got impatient when I forgot that question . Thanks for the tip Henry 🙂 Heck I allready missed it once replying to you just now Henry hahaha, guess I`m getting impatient again lol.
Hehehe! Even if the security question were at the top, I’d probably still miss it every once in awhile, and (kinda) like Digger said once your done with comment, hit post! lol!
KD, if you don’t want to worry about losing your post (Some blogs/sites time you out and you lose things that way too) open a word doc or create mail and work on it there. Then cut/copy and paste 🙂
Thank you for your thoughtlessness KD!
K D Quitter,if this little bit of a nothing problem(your fault anyway) throws you into a tailspin you need to de stress.I am with out a doubt the worse typist on the planet and have had more than one “brainfart” on the security question and the fault was MINE no one elses the math problem is where its at, doesnt matter where you forgot just like ive forgot and probably numerous others have forgot.If it helps any out there I have started doing the “math” before I start pecking the post and it has cut out many a whoops damn %$#$#@!#$$% and painful retypes.I did notice after your gripe post you did not even make a valid point,are ya just wore out from plainin .
KD, if solving a simple math problem is your biggest worry and complaint then God help you when our government comes after you because you’ll already be done for.
And if you’re a government troll, then you must be a rookie because that argument is outdated and way too old.