May 21, 2020
By Charles Redfield, Executive Vice President, Food, Walmart U.S. & Russell Mounce, Senior Vice President, Fresh, Sam’s Club
COVID-19 has created a near-perfect storm of uncertainty, and we’ve seen its impact ripple through the communities we serve. As a company committed to helping people save money and live better, we are working hard to respond to the many ways our communities need us, from ensuring access to the food and essentials people need, to expanding COVID-19 testing sites across America, to doubling down on our commitment of resources to aid those on the front lines responding to the virus.
As we have closely watched and responded to the needs of our customers and communities, we continue to see a significant need for access to food. Many people are experiencing unforeseen economic hardships due to furloughs, lost jobs and medical bills. As a result, our country is experiencing an unprecedented rise in people seeking food assistance, and local food banks and other hunger-relief organizations and programs are struggling to keep up with demand. Feeding America reports that 38 percent of neighbors being served are new to charitable food assistance.
Here’s how we’re helping meet that need.
Increasing Food Access During COVID-19
As one of the world’s largest grocers, we have long been committed to supporting access to food – whether through our everyday low prices or donations to local food banks. As the pandemic spread across the U.S. in March, customer purchasing behaviors changed, focusing on shelf-stable items as many prepared for sheltering at home. This behavior change coupled with honoring buying commitments with our fresh suppliers resulted in an unusual surplus of produce. Taking advantage of this surplus to meet the increased demand for food assistance around the country, Walmart and Sam’s Club quickly jumped into action, sending truckloads of food from our distribution centers (DCs) to food banks and other organizations in need.
In April, in addition to our regular food donations, Walmart donated 85 truckloads of food to organizations helping feed individuals and families during the crisis. And, Sam’s Club donated more than 84,000 pounds of produce to support health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. Walmart and Sam’s Club donation efforts continue today.
But to say we just dropped off truckloads of food does not do justice to the incredible efforts of our associates across Walmart and Sam’s Club, or to the food bank community that has made this possible. You see, coordinating an effort of this scale takes significant planning and a lot of folks moving fast to make it happen.
How We Work: Partnerships and Planning Get Food Where It’s Needed
Associates are working in every part of our business, from stores, clubs, distribution centers and our global headquarters, to help get food where it’s needed. These incredible efforts start with our supply chain team that works closely with our DCs to identify food available for donation and coordinate both inside and outside of Walmart to get it to organizations for distribution. Because much of this food is produce and other perishable foods, time is of the essence to get this food to the organizations that can distribute it to people in need.
The Walmart team works closely with Feeding America®, a nationwide network of 200 local food banks, to quickly identify member food banks and other organizations on the front lines who can use the donations to help feed people in need. Our transportation team delivers the donated food to the organizations across the country. Our truck drivers, along with all our associates involved in these efforts, could not be prouder to serve their communities.
In most cases, we rely heavily on our longstanding partnership with Feeding America to get the food into the hands of people who need it most, but in these uncertain times we also expanded our network of giving to help serve additional underserved communities experiencing an increased need and those on the front lines of the response.
In Oklahoma, Walmart donated nine truckloads of produce and other food to tribal governments, where food insecurity is a concern being intensified by COVID-19.
Tiffany Frietze is the health and community services division director for the Pawnee Nation. She said Walmart’s produce donations are making an impact.
“This will definitely help supplement our tribal food programs, local food banks and provide food assistance to those who have been furloughed or laid-off,” Frietze said. “We have much appreciation for this partnership and what you did for our community.”
And in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Mid-South Food Bank, produce donations are having a tangible impact.
“We are servicing 1,500 to 2,000 households Monday through Friday and 2,500 to 3,000 households on Saturdays with our mobile pantries,” said Angela Johnson, director of donor relations at the Mid-South Food Bank. “With the increase in produce, we have been able to increase the amount being distributed to each household on our mobile pantries.”
In Miami, Sam’s Club associates from across South Florida worked together to deliver fresh produce to Jackson Memorial Hospital. They set up a farmer’s market-style drive-through to distribute the food and thank the hospital’s first responders.
A similar event was held in New Orleans where associates from across southern Louisiana Sam’s Clubs set up a drive-through and placed prepackaged produce in the trunks of the vehicles of the hospital’s first responders. So many of these healthcare professionals are working long hours and can’t always get out to stores before they close. These donation efforts distributed this additional produce to some very deserving people who are sacrificing so much to keep all of us safe and healthy.
“What sets this donation apart is the reality that these men and women work 12-hour days and often don’t have time to go to the grocery store to pick up produce and those things they need to support their families,” said Roy Hawkins, CEO of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. “This donation from Sam’s Club brings the produce right to where our employees are – to the front line, to their job – and is really the ultimate show of gratitude and appreciation.”
Fighting Hunger Beyond Food Donations
These efforts aren’t new ones – Walmart and Sam’s Club’s commitment to helping fight food insecurity is longstanding. In fiscal year 2020 alone, we donated more than 585 million pounds of food to food banks around the country. Unfortunately, the need is far greater than can be met by either our existing or enhanced food donation program, and Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have worked to help further the cause through both philanthropy and special campaigns.
In March, the Walmart Foundation committed $10 million in response to the pandemic to organizations helping increase food access, including $5 million to Feeding America. Walmart also launched the Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign early with online donations, to give our customers and members a way to help pitch in. And, between now and mid-June, customers will have the opportunity to support their community’s Feeding America member food bank by rounding-up their online totals to the nearest dollar when making a purchase on Walmart.com.
We all have had to work in different, thoughtful ways to go above and beyond our “normal,” in a time when few things can be classified as such. We know the need will continue for quite some time as we respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.