A Hope-Filled Homecoming in New Orleans

Nine years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans East community, leaving a path of devastation in its wake. Our Walmart store was just one of the many buildings destroyed.

After the storm, we promised to reopen our doors in the area, and as of June 11, I’m proud to be able to say that we’ve followed through.

For many, Walmart is a staple of everyday routine: grabbing groceries, crossing items off a shopping list. But for New Orleanians, this new supercenter is a symbol of recovery and opportunity. It will bring much-needed retail to the particularly hard-hit New Orleans East and will act as a catalyst for growth in the area.

When we opened the hiring center for this Walmart, more than 3,600 applications were submitted. By investing in this new store, Walmart has brought more than 400 new jobs to the area, and 65% of the store’s associates are residents of New Orleans East.

Twenty-five of the associates employed at this new store worked in the East prior to Hurricane Katrina and are finally returning to work in their community, nearly a decade after their lives were changed forever.

Looking at the crowd gathered to celebrate the reopening a few weeks ago, I was reminded of a simple fact about New Orleanians: Whatever comes their way, they get back up.

We have worked hard to rebuild this store for our customers, and we are proud to once again be a part of this strong, vibrant community.



#FiveThingsFriday: Malibu Comes to Arkansas, and a Birth Story Worth Checking Out

ICYMI: Rum, a new baby, a lost locket and pumpkins a-plenty. Oh, and the largest single-day health event in America. It’s an odd list with one thing in common – it’s all news in the world of Walmart this week.

If You Like Pina Coladas…

Arkansas got a bit more tropical this week when Pernod Ricard began bottling Malibu Rum at its plant in Fort Smith. This reshoring effort will bring an additional 6,000 man hours to the plant over the next year, which translates into more hours for existing workers and additional seasonal and full-time employment. An estimated 150,000 cases will be bottled in the plant that also produces Kahlua Liqueur, Seagram's Gin and Smithworks Vodka. Cheers!

Price Check on Bouncing Baby Boy

On Sunday morning, our Payson, Utah, store inadvertently hosted a reenactment of the 2000 film “Where the Heart Is” when customer Cecelia Rivas went into labor when she was checking out. Customers and associates helped Cecelia deliver baby Matias right there at the cash register. Mom and baby are doing well, and the store will be welcoming them back for a proper baby shower soon.

More Wellness for Your Weekend

This Saturday, October 15, every Walmart store in the U.S. will be hosting Walmart Wellness Day, the largest single-day health fair in the country. From noon to 4 p.m., local time, you can get free blood glucose, blood pressure, vision screenings (where available), product samples and information on health insurance options. We’ll have lots of companies in store handing out free samples, from Dannon to Johnson & Johnson. And since no exciting Saturday is complete without a round of shots, we’re also offering low-cost immunizations.

Lost, But Found

Tampa associate Pamela Martini made it a personal mission to reunite a heart-shaped locket she found in her store with its rightful owner. Customers lose lots of items in our stores, but Pamela knew that this piece of jewelry was different; it had a man’s name and two dates engraved on it, and the inside contained ashes. She searched online, posted to Facebook, talked to customers, and even reached out to her local news station. Her determinedness paid off when she was able to reunite the locket with the woman who owned it.

It’s the Great Pumpkin … Farmer!

Sarah Frey has been supplying Walmart with pumpkins for about 20 years. She got her start with us when she was still a teenager helping out the family farm. Her business has grown from 80 acres to about 15,000, and she’s expanding beyond the bright orange gourds you pick up for Jack-O-Lanterns. Sarah is introducing Pumpkins of the World, exotic pumpkins aimed at cooks. We’re all familiar with the canned pumpkin used for Thanksgiving pie, but have you heard of Jarrahdales or Chioggias? No, we didn’t make those up, but they could be the next big food trend. Fun fact: Did you know that the pumpkins you carve up for Halloween are known as “jacks”? Store that one away for your next trivia night.

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Food for Thought: Focusing Minds by Fighting Hunger

Across America, kids are settling back into school routines. They are making new friends, trying new activities, and taking on new subjects to learn.

But there’s something else that happens this time of year: many children also return to depend on the availability of a healthy meal at a school breakfast, lunch or afterschool program. In the United States, hunger is a critical issue in the lives of far too many families. The USDA reports that in 2015, 42.2 million people in America, including more than 13 million children, lived in households that are at risk of struggling with hunger.

At the Walmart Foundation, we envision a world where families have access to healthy food – when and where they need it. Together with Walmart, we are supporting organizations that are fighting hunger in ways that create long-term positive change, like providing meal programs, offering nutrition education, and increasing access to fruits and vegetables. Two years ago, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation pledged to help provide 4 billion meals to people in need by 2020. Because of the great work being done by our grantees, we are already over halfway there – but we know that there is more work to do.

Today we are announcing $33 million in grants to nonprofit organizations working in local communities across the country. Each of these organizations is bringing their passion, creativity and unique talents to helping families access healthy food. Here are just a few examples:

The Chef Ann Foundation helps schools establish lunchroom learning programs that teach kids about different varieties of fresh produce and allow them to sample fruits and vegetables that they may not normally have access to. The fun and educational activities are encouraging even the pickiest of eaters to try – and enjoy – new, healthier foods, take their newfound tastes back to their families, and develop good eating habits in school and out.

The National Recreation and Parks Association offers meal programs and nutrition education across the country. This summer, one of those in the Baltimore area helped children at the Lincoln Park Community Center plant and maintain a vegetable garden for the summer. After growing squash, peppers, radishes and cabbage, many of the kids said they felt personally connected to their crops.

Another grantee, Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, is helping kids start their day with solid nutrition. After implementing one program in Denver Public Schools where 10,484 additional students began receiving school breakfast every day, the initiative was deemed so successful that it served as a model for the entire state. Colorado enacted new “Breakfast after the Bell” legislation which requires schools to serve a free, nutritious breakfast to all students if 80% or more of the student body is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Investing in these organizations is how we can help make a difference one community at a time. Each grant may be one step, but an important one. It will take more organizations, individuals, community leaders and companies working together to make the vision of a nation without hunger a reality.

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5 Reasons to Check Out Scan & Go at Sam’s Club

Too busy to wait in line? Sam’s Club has the perfect solution and it’s called Scan & Go. This app turns your smartphone into a magic wand allowing you to save time by skipping the checkout lanes.

Available at all Sam’s Club locations nationwide, Scan & Go puts the checkout process in the hands of the user. Our team created the technology to address one of the most common pain points shoppers face – waiting to check out.

Here’s how it works: First, download the Scan & Go app on your iPhone or Android and head to your nearest Sam’s Club. Then, simply scan UPC codes on items as you shop, and pay for them directly from your smartphone anywhere in the club. Once you’re done shopping, just show your digital receipt to an associate on the way out.

Here are five reasons you’ll want to download the app before your next trip to Sam’s Club:

1. Save Time, Skip the Line: We all know time is valuable. By skipping the checkout line, you can spend those extra minutes on the people and things that matter most to you.

2. Track Spending: The Scan & Go app is a useful budgeting tool, allowing users to keep track of what they’re spending while they shop. No more surprises!

3. Cart Gaming: If you thought your kids loved playing games on your phone, wait until they see this! Parents are raving about how their kids love helping scan items.

4. Forgotten Hero: Have you ever left a store with a cart full of items, only to remember too late that one item you didn’t get? With Scan & Go, you can rush back inside the club, get it and go!

5. Silent Shopper: Let’s admit it, we’ve all had days when we’ve felt a little less than social. That’s OK, we understand. Similar to self checkout, Scan & Go offers do-it-yourself fans a chance to take charge of their shopping experience.

The app has received positive reviews from users so far. At last check, the app had a 4.5-star rating in the App Store and 4.0 rating in Google Play. Some users described the app as “better than sliced bread” and “Samtastic!” Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Walmart Driver Delivers a Win at National Championships

He practices nearly every day, honing his skills and aiming to be the best in his field. He’s won numerous competitions, most recently being crowned a national grand champion.

But he’s not an athlete; he’s a truck driver. And the National Truck Driving Championships are his big bowl game.

Mike White of Nineveh, Indiana, has been driving professionally for 39 years, the last 26 of those for Walmart’s private fleet. On Aug. 13, after four days of hard-driving competition in Indianapolis, he was recognized as the most skilled and most knowledgeable in the country.

The 79th annual competition, hosted by the American Trucking Associations, was a nail-biter until the very end. “When my name was called out, it floored me. I didn’t think I was even going to make the top five,” let alone be named the champion, Mike said.

Competitors are made up of the winners in eight classes of competition from 50 state trucking associations’ Truck Driving Championships. Each driver must undergo a written examination, personal interview, pre-trip inspection test and a skills test.

Mike credits his exam and pre-trip scores with getting him into the top five and landing him the 3-axle class title. His run on the skills course put him over the top, securing his bid for overall grand champion.

It’s a game of inches. Mike faced 15 challenges, like maneuvering his big rig within 18 inches of a barrier and rolling between two tightly spaced rows of tennis balls attached to wood stands – bump any of them and lose points, and possibly the title. There was also a “road kill” challenge where drivers had to get the right front tire as close as possible to, but not touching, a rubber duck sitting in the roadway.

“It was such a surprise – that was the best part,” Mike said of his big win. “This wasn’t just for my home state of Indiana; it was for me, my family and Walmart.”

It’s also a nod to Mike’s commitment to safe driving. Drivers must be accident free for at least a year prior to the competition. Considering that Mike has been to nationals six times, it’s clear that safety on the road is his priority.

Despite having about 36 competitions under his belt and now the ultimate award, Mike isn’t ready to quit. He’s looking forward to defending his titles in 2017.

That attitude doesn’t surprise Jennifer Gray, regional safety manager for Walmart, who witnessed Mike’s winning moment. “Mike is the true face of our professional Walmart driver, and I have been blessed to be able to work with him for the past four years,” she said after the competition. “He has always had his eye on that prize of being a grand champion one day.”

Geno Bell, senior director of transportation for Walmart, seconded that.

“I’ve known Mike White for over 10 years. He’s a true professional, mentor and a great ambassador of the culture for our private fleet,” Geno said. “Mike practiced and studied hard for the ATA competition, and to see him win it all was AMAZING!”

Mike has earned more than just praise from his leadership – he’s also getting a new semi in the color of his choice.

“Walmart is so proud of their drivers who achieve awards for their expertise in safe driving,” Jennifer explained. “We have a wonderful program to recognize these associates and to also allow the motoring public to recognize when they are sharing the road with one of our safe driving champions.”

It takes time and expertise to earn a personalized truck. The honor is reserved for associates who achieve 3 million and 4 million Walmart safe driving miles, as well as those who are named ATA grand champion or ATA Driver of the Year.

In the meantime, like a seasoned athlete, Mike is back in training mode preparing for the next round of competitions.

“I have a big hill to climb and a lot of people after me,” he said.

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