Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Food Retailing & Society Memo: Wal-Mart Foundation Gives New York USA Food Bank System Over Half Million Dollar Cash Donation

Volunteers at this Manhattan food pantry, which is one of the hundreds located in communities throughout New York that are supplied by the food bank network and other donors, pack food boxes for fellow New Yorkers who need food assistance.

The Food Bank Association of New York state USA said yesterday it received a check for $577,000 from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to be used by the state's food bank network to provide food and groceries for the increasing number of New York residents caught in the nation's severe economic recession.

A spokesperson for New York's food bank network told Natural~Specialty Foods Memo that because of the network's size and ability to purchase food and grocery products at bargain rates from manufacturers, it believes it can leverage Wal-Mart's $577,000 donation into as much as $6 million dollars worth of food to distribute to the state's needy.

Wal-Mart broke down its donation to the food bank network this way, in order to localize the monies as well as to provide a significant portion to the main food bank network: it gave a lump-sum cash grant of $322,000 to the New York Food Bank Network from its Wal-Mart foundation, and an additional award of $25,000 to seven of the Food Bank Association's eight affiliates. On top of that it gave an $80,000 grant to the Food Bank of New York City.

Yesterday, Wal-Mart representatives and leaders of New York's food banks also announced the mega-retailer would hold a major food drive at all of its New York state Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores beginning next month and continuing over the following 12 months.

Scores of Wal-Mart-New York store associates also said on Tuesday they are planning to volunteer at the food banks and in other activities designed to help those in need of food assistance.

At yesterday's announcement, Wal-Mart also donated a semi-truck full of food and grocery essentials to the food bank network.

Last year, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. gave more than $7 million in cash and in-kind donations to causes and organizations throughout New York state, according to audited records.

The retailer has a strong and growing presence in the Empire State, with 92 Wal-Mart Supercenter and Discount stores, 17 Sam's Clubs, and three distribution centers.

Wal-Mart gets lots of flack, some of it deserved, for being a big bad corporation and mega-retailer. However, we should note we did a little checking and none of New York's investment or commercial banks -- the ones with their headquarters in New York City and the ones that the American taxpayer is now bailing out to the tune of $700 billion -- have donated anything even coming close to the $577,000 Wal-Mart donated in just this one check to the state's food banks.

Love it or hate it, or remain in between, but Wal-Mart isn't asking the American taxpayer for any sort of bailout. And in these tough economic times it is emerging as one of if not the major corporate charitable contributor in the U.S.

If you are hungry and in need of food assistance in New York and elsewhere in the U.S., you're going to be mighty happy that Wal-Mart is willing to write half a million dollar checks, along with conducting year-long food drives and other activities which will raise even more than that for the state's food banks. In fact, Wal-Mart is making similar cash donations and conducting similar food drives throughout the U.S.

Meanwhile, many of those New York investment banks that should be giving big donations to the New York Food Bank Network this year are instead asking New York and American taxpayers for a bailout because in numerous instances, unlike Wal-Mart and other retailers that do business the old fashion way -- they buy goods and sell them for a profit, adding value along the way to consumers -- these financial institutions created a way of doing business that made a few rich at the expense of many. In fact, it is safe to say the behavior of many of these financial institutions is having a direct effect in adding more Americans to the food insecurity roles.

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