Wal-Mart = Nutrition on a Budget?

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My husband and I recently made a pact to help our family eat more healthily.  We don’t eat horribly as it is, but with three kids ages five and under, we do frequently succumb to the temptations of easy-to-prepare food: pasta, pizza, and the like.  We want to be cooking with more fresh vegetables and meat that actually tastes like meat.  Still, time is at a premium, so it helps to be able to shop at a single store.

The Atlantic

We are fortunate to live near our choice of grocery stores.  Our default is the local Super Target.  It’s right down the hill from our house and stocks just about everything – well, everything except really good produce and meat.  If I want good-tasting chicken I’ll head to Whole Foods and brace myself for the gilded price tags, or wait until the weekend when I can get my leafy greens from a local farm at the Durham Farmers Market.

With so many other choices available, I never would think of going to Wal-Mart for my groceries.

Perhaps I should think again.

The ubiquitous chain – despised by many for putting smaller shops out of business and frequented by many more for its low, low prices – has apparently been changing. 

Wal-Mart has been making inroads into the organic market for the past decade, but recently, they’ve made a push to stock more locally grown foods.  In this month’s The Atlantic, Corby Kummer writes about his first visit to a Wal-Mart in ten years:

In the grocery section of the Raynham supercenter, 45 minutes south of Boston, I had trouble believing I was in a Walmart. The very reasonable-looking produce, most of it loose and nicely organized, was in black plastic bins (as in British supermarkets, where the look is common; the idea is to make the colors pop). The first thing I saw, McIntosh apples, came from the same local orchard whose apples I’d just seen in the same bags at Whole Foods. The bunched beets were from Muranaka Farm, whose beets I often buy at other markets—but these looked much fresher. The service people I could find (it wasn’t hard) were unfailingly enthusiastic, though I did wonder whether they got let out at night.

Kummer goes on to compare the taste of Wal-Mart’s produce against nearly identical (though much more expensive) items from Whole Foods, partnering with the chef at a fine restaurant to set up a blind taste test judged by local food experts.  In many cases, there was no contest: the Wal-Mart food was the winner, hands down.

If the quality of Wal-Mart’s produce can stand up to that of Whole Foods, and if they can offer a comparable product at a substantial discount -- AND still work with local farmers, that’s worth noting.  What’s more, Wal-Mart is much more accessible – there are over 70 Super Centers (the ones with full grocery offerings) scattered across North Carolina, even in many of the more rural areas of the state. 

So pastors, take notice: finding healthy, flavorful food on a budget may be easier than we thought.


Kate Rugani
Communications Manager
Clergy Health Initiative

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