Michelle Obama Eliminating Food Deserts in Unstainable Business Areas: Oh Noes – WalMart to the Rescue

This one is jaw dropping. Michelle Obama is chastising food industry businesses for leaving areas where they once were, or never were, and she doesn’t explore the reasons for the businesses leaving, or never establishing in the first place. Businesses do go where the business is. She wants grocery stores and restaurants (only those serving healthy foods) to move into those urban and rural areas, and she wants it to be a done-deal in seven years – get ‘er done, and start right now. She wants lettuce and fresh fruit on the neighborhood corner. She has $400 MILLION to fund the effort. Maybe some of the areas are sustainable, but some will not be. WalMart is one grocery store partnering with her to eliminate “food deserts.”

Braums Fresh Market


When businesses are not located where people live, there are a few good reasons for not being there: 1) probably not enough people to support a livelihood and/or 2) high crime. That’s about it folks, with the possible exception of lenders not willing to offer financing, and that’s generally due to 1) not enough people to support the business and the repayment of the loan and 2) high crime, which puts the repayment of the loan at jeopardy.

Take Oakland, California. West Oakland, California to be specific. They abide in a food desert and Michelle Obama is doing something about it, not the least of which was her announcement today of a $200 MILLION public-private partnership (not a part of the $400 MILLION). No mention of how much of the $200 MILLION is “public” financing. A full-service grocery store is planned – the People’s Community Market is hopefully coming to West Oakland. It appears there is one WalMart in the area of East Oakland, no others in the wider Oakland region. The population of Oakland is 411,785. The unemployment rate is 17.20. Recent job growth has declined by 5.07% and is rated “negative. Liberal Democrat Representative Barbara Lee represents the good people in the zip code where The People’s Market is hoping to establish. Both of the state’s U.S. Senators are Democrats.

My city Tulsa, Oklahoma has 4 WalMart Supercenters, various WalMart Neighborhoods, and plain old-fashioned WalMarts (and several other Supercenters in our close-by bedroom communities) with a 2010 population of 384,123. Our unemployment rate is 7.20%. Recent job growth is positive. We have at least three Super Targets, and numerous specialty, high end grocery stores, the long-established Pettys and one Whole Foods. We have Food Pyramid which replaced some of the Albertson’s stores, and a favorite of mine, locally-owned Reasors. If only we had a Trader Joe’s, but archaic liquor laws keep them away.

I remember when Inglewood, California – high crime, high poverty, high unemployment was outraged that a lowly Wal-Mart Superstore wanted to locate there in 2004. Those savvy voters rejected it. Lost jobs, lost tax revenue, lost shopping opportunity.

The estimated Inglewood median household income in 2009 was $44,249. The estimated per capita income in 2009 was $20,154 yet the median price of a house or condo in the same year was $351,700! The growth of Inglewood since 2000 was -0.3% in July 2009. In the same year the poverty level was 66.4% greater than the average in California. Sperling’s Best Places show the recent unemployment rate at 15.70% and the recent job growth at -6.24%. Both figures were updated June 2010.

In 2004 when WalMart was booted from Inglewood, the unemployment rate was 8.23% and it didn’t decline before the figures soared.

Inglewood, California “has the highest percentage of registered Democrats of any city in California.” Seven percent are registered Republicans. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is repeatedly sent to Congress to represent the good citizens of Inglewood.

So, I see nothing saying Inglewood, California doesn’t have sufficient supermarkets, and no want for lettuce, however, you can bet the prices or selection isn’t as good as a local WalMart Supercenter.

I can’t confirm the number of the average jobs created per each new WalMart Supercenter, but I see the number 500 in numerous places. One upside is the opportunity to work into management. A fair number of management jobs come with each WalMart Supercenter.

The state of California did a WalMart Economic Impact Study in 2004 when Supercenters were a new phenomena. If you think this “big box store” is not good for a community, you must take a look.

Page 2-3: If all current unionized grocery employees were to eventually earn the equivalent of Wal-Mart Supercenter employees, the lost spending due to eroded household income could cost Los Angeles County alone 1,500 to 2,500 jobs and the 7-county region 3,000 to 5,100 jobs. Should these losses materialize, they would be offset by region-wide gains of 36,400 jobs, meaning that outside the grocery sector at least seven jobs would be added for every one lost. 

Page 22: WalMart compensation, while lower than for the best-paid unionized grocery employees, is better than most people realize, particularly in its food business. WalMart benefits include health care, a stakeholders’ bonus, which is paid to employees at stores that perform well, profit-sharing, company contributions to 401(k) plans, which are the most common form of defined contribution retirement plan, a 15 percent discount on company stock, and a 10 percent discount on general merchandise. WalMart’s healthcare plan reqiures employees to share the upfront costs (Wal-Mart pays 2/3rd, the associates pay 1/3rd), but in return does not have single incident or lifetime caps on coverage…

WalMart recruits its management primarily from within the ranks of its own employees, with 2/3rd of its management having started off as hourly workers. …

About those food deserts: One is South Park, Seattle, Washington. This article dated July 11, 2011 says there is a lone grocery store – The Red Apple, just outside the city limits. It’s difficult to get to the Red Apple, however, although South Park has only one zip code and Red Apple is in that zip code. The closest WalMart Store is about 9 miles away. For some reason, grocery stores don’t care to locate in South Park, Seattle. There are many environmental challenges with the soil and the water. It’s not a healthy community. Maybe the area needs to be condemned. I wouldn’t put my business there. The zip code 98108 has a population of only 23,000.  Unemployment is 7.8%, under the national average. The job outlook has decreased and is viewed as negative. The cost of living is 30.5% higher than the U.S. average. Democrat Congressman Jim McDermott represents the good people of South Park. Both of the state’s U.S. Senators are Democrats.

Denver has a food desert. It is reported in the Denver Post. From what I’ve read I can’t link to them or quote them or I might get sued. I’ll just tell you that both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators are Democrats, and according to the zip code of a middle school mentioned in the article, the U.S. Representative is Diana DeGette, a Democrat.

Melrose Place, The Bronx, New York City is a food desert. I do not see a WalMart in the Melrose zips. This article says a poll reflects that Bronxites really want WalMart, and as of last December, WalMart was working on opening a store there. U.S. Congressman Jose E. Serrano represents the good people of Melrose Park, Bronx, New York. ACORN there held a fundraiser, and longtime supporter Rep. Serrano attended. ACORN is “waging war” against WalMart in the Bronx. Read the Human Events story here. Both U.S. Senators are Democrats.  Source for New York neighborhoods.

The Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York is a high crime area, and is a food desert. I didn’t find a WalMart in Brooklyn, but did see that WalMart is interested in coming in to the area, but some local merchants are fighting it.  Democrat Congresswoman Yvette Clarke represents the good people of Brooklyn. In May 2011, this article quotes Clarke’s mother, saying: “WalMart does not share mothers’ values.”

The Washington Heights section of Manhattan is a food desert. In February 2011 the UFCW Local 1500 protested a hearing on Walmart coming into their area, saying “there is more to life than cheap underwear.” Democrat Congressman Charlie Rangel represents the good people of Washington Heights.

The Stapleton section of Staten Island is a food desert. Oh…a Republican represents Staten Island, Congressman Michael Grimm, who just took office in January 2011. He replaced a Democrat.

Baltimore’s Washington Village area is a food desert. I believe Democrat Congressman Elijah Cummings represents the good people of Washington Village. Both of Maryland’s U.S. Senators are Democrats. Cummings worked to keep WalMart out his district in 2006 and reportedly, a staff member was a plaintiffof the recent ‘WalMart discrimination against women” lawsuit that was dismissed.

There appear to be Food Deserts everywhere across our nation. If a grocery store isn’t within a half mile or less, it often becomes a desert. In Tulsa, represented by a Republican Congressman and both Senators Republican, North Tulsa is a food desert. Crime is high – has always been high. I won’t drive in North Tulsa. I feel great empathy for those trying to raise children there. Stores have moved in and left over the years. The one grocery store there now, and only about a year old, is accused of having high prices and was robbed not long after opening. Sigh.

Michelle Obama’s goal is to get fresh produce on neighborhood corners. Here in Oklahoma we are fortunate to have the famous Braums ice cream outlets, which now have a fresh market. You can get just about anything you want for a quick, healthy dinner, but then neighborhood corners are are not as expensive in Oklahoma as they are in some of the places mentioned above. The fact is, we can’t expect people to be able to walk to the grocers. Sometime you just have to drive, no matter your busy schedule. I’ve done that all my adult life.

  • There are no WalMarts in New York City. The city government will not allow them in it. No store is going to set up in an area that is high crime. They will not be in business very long.

  • Sounds to me like having a WalMart in your area is a badge of honor.

  • Luap

    I didn’t know that I grew up and continue to live in a “food desert” here in rural north Louisiana…I guess it’s because we never did without fresh fruits or vegetables.
    I’m not sure how the rest of the country does it, but down here we have this ancient cajun tradition called “going to buy groceries”….I will try to explain this mysterious ritual to you.
    Once a week,normally on Friday,we harness the alligators to the pirogue and travel down the bayou to the “grocery store”….then we buy what we need for the week using a sacred scroll known as a “grocery list.” Claude the Sacred Crawfish taught us this so we could eat and live.