Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Wednesday it will commit $2 billion in cash and in-kind donations to households in need of food.
With the company's large-scale reach, Wal-Mart will distribute 1.1 billion pounds of food nationwide in response to the 15 percent hunger rate in the United States, according to a company release.
The initiative titled “Fighting Hunger Together” will be carried out over five years.
“Wal-Mart’s five-year commitment of money and resources, coupled with its outreach to employees and customers, will help meet the nutrition needs of countless children and families across our country,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.
More than a billion meals are expected to be donated to families. The food will include items such as fresh produce, meat and dairy products. Wal-Mart’s focus lies on delivering fresh, nutritious products that are in great demand at food banks to feed low-income families.
The type of food Wal-Mart selects for donation is based on demand. Last year for example, 28 percent of the food donated by the corporation was fresh produce, 25 percent was meat, fish and dairy, and the rest was baked goods. Although in 2009 Wal-Mart spent over $500 million on global donations, the “Fighting Hunger Together” is a first-time initiative to commit several years on one domestic effort.
The customers and associates of the corporation will also get a chance to participate in the project. Although no specific agenda was announced for their roles, according to Wal-Mart, employees’ top priority currently lies in overseeing that donated meals are picked up by food banks at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations every day.
The effort will also provide a total of $250 million in grants to hunger-relief organizations for improving food bank capacity, food mobilization, and providing meals for schools.
According to a Wal-Mart fact sheet, over 16 million children live in homes that have limited food supplies.
“Increasingly, we see opportunities to use our scale and reach to solve challenges in our communities,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman of Wal-Mart. “This is one of those times.”
More than a year has passed since current Wal-Mart President and CEO Mike Duke replaced Lee Scott in January 2009. Wal-Mart has come under fire in previous years for employee rights violations, food quality, and infringement on human values. Under Duke’s leadership, however, it looks like the corporate giant is trying to attract good publicity with the donation effort.
An e-mail sent to Wal-Mart Watch, an organization that closely monitors Wal-Mart’s actions and calls for the company to uphold corporate moral values, was not returned for comment.