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Meet Your New Neighborhood Food Market: A $400-billion-a-year Retail Behemoth

With two million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, somehow Walmart is trying to put on a "local" mask.
 
 
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The signature phrase of America's booming good food movement has been expanded from "organic" to "local and sustainable."

Good! The phrase suggests great quality, strong environmental stewardship, and a commitment to keeping our food dollars in the local economy. If you support the local-economies movement, as I do, no doubt you'll be thrilled to hear that a new, local food store is coming soon to your neighborhood. In fact, it's even named Neighborhood Market.

Only, it's not. It's a Walmart. Yes, the $400-billion-a-year retail behemoth, with two million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, now is putting on a "local" mask. The giant is promising to buy nine percent of the produce it'll sell from local farmers. Big whoopie. This means that 91 percent of the foodstuffs offered in its "Neighborhood" chain will come from Wayawayland.

But even the nine percent number is a deceit, for Walmart says that it defines "local" as grown in the same state. Excuse me, but in California, Florida, Texas, and other such sizable states, that can be a mighty long truck haul away. Not exactly what us locals would call "local."

As for being sustainable, Walmart is bragging about a billion-dollar investment it'll make to shrink its environmental footprint a bit. That's a nice gesture. But come on, this outfit has humongous feet that bestride the whole world. Even a billion bucks won't shrink that footprint. Walmart neither made a commitment to organic production, nor did it rule out peddling genetically engineered Frankenfoods as part of its "sustainability" gimmick.

Who does Walmart think its fooling? It's not coming to our neighborhoods to be local and sustainable, but to drive out our home-grown enterprises and extract profits from our own communities.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the new book, " Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow ." (Wiley, March 2008) He publishes the monthly " Hightower Lowdown ," co-edited by Phillip Frazer.

 
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