Walmart and Sam’s Club Reach Food Donation Milestone
By Julie Gehrki, Vice President, Philanthropy at Walmart
Big changes are often slow going. Not because we want them to be, but because it takes time to make massive impact. Since 2006, Walmart and Sam’s Club have been donating food to local Feeding America® member food banks, and this month marked a major milestone: We hit 7 billion pounds of food donated. We couldn’t have reached this milestone without our associates, who started this program and continue to make it work every day so we can give back in each of our communities across the country.
For context, 7 billion pounds of food equates to more than 5 billion meals*. To put that in perspective, the population of the U.S. is over 331 million people. That means we donated enough food for every person in America to eat three meals a day for five days.
Why the charge to help end hunger? Well, because food insecurity still exists, and Walmart and Sam’s Club can help organizations solve it. In addition to food donations and strengthening the charitable meal system, we aim to tackle this in other ways, including offering access to low-cost, nutritious food at our stores and online pickup and delivery. Through philanthropy, we support organizations developing innovative approaches to food access and increasing people’s confidence in eating healthier meals. It’s also why we launched the Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign, to involve others in our fight against food insecurity. Now in its ninth year, the campaign isn’t just about providing meals – it’s also about raising awareness in communities that simple actions can make big differences for people who don’t know where their next meal may come from. Together with the help of our associates, customers, members and suppliers, we have secured over 1.5 billion meals** for people in need through Fight Hunger. Spark Change. These meals are in addition to Walmart and Sam’s Club's food donation program, which distributes fresh produce, dairy and meat along with other food items every week to the Feeding America network of 200 member food banks across the country.
That progress is valuable and exciting, but there’s work still to be done. Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot recently visited Northwest Arkansas and spoke with the local National Public Radio station, KUAF, about what remains in the fight against food insecurity, and how the pandemic impacted it. “To give you a sense of scale, in one year during the pandemic, about 60 million people turned to the charitable food system for help. And our network provided 6.6 billion meals,” Babineaux-Fontenot said. “With that understood, it gives you context to the extraordinary partnership that we have with Walmart and Sam’s Club – the largest donor of food in our whole network.”
Despite the effort from Feeding America, and the generosity of people across the country, one in eight people in America continue to face food insecurity. Babineaux-Fontenot said it’s not an issue of availability of food, but rather one of awareness.
“There’s some math that should work in our favor. At least 66 billion pounds of perfectly edible food goes to landfills every year – that’s not counting household waste. What if, instead of going to landfills, it went to fill bellies,” Babineaux-Fontenot said. “Our issue in the country – it’s not that we don’t have enough food to feed our people – we do. There needs to be some matching, some intentionality around it. I’m confident that because people have a much better awareness of this challenge, that we’re going to take this challenge on [of ending hunger in America].”
Progress has certainly been made in the years that Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs have been working to help fight hunger. Progress alone, no matter how great, isn’t enough. We’ll continue working to fight hunger until our neighbors have the access they need to the food that sustains them. And as always, we invite you to join us.
*According to the USDA, one meal equates to 1.2 pounds of food. **Currently, $1 helps provide at least 10 meals secured by Feeding America® on behalf of local member food banks.