Walmart is rolling back prices again, this time by as much as $1 billion on some of its food selections. Certainly, America's largest retailer, which sold more than $145 billion in just grocery sales last year, has some wiggle room when it comes to setting food prices. And at a time when Americans continue to struggle with unemployment, rising gas prices and a tepid economy, a drop in food prices certainly seems altruistic—that is, until you read the fine print.
Though in January the retailer joined First Lady Michelle Obama in her work to combat childhood obesity, there's no evidence that this drop in food prices actually supports those efforts. Rather than promoting the move as a way to make healthy food affordable and accessible to more people, the retailer instead has said it's lowering prices to encourage more overall spending from shoppers. After seeing how cheap the cereal is, why not splurge on a new bowl to eat it in, right?
More important, the store hasn't specified exactly what types of food will be discounted. For some reason, even though Walmart is the largest buyer of organic foods, I don't expect organic produce, dairy or meat to make the cut. Instead, shoppers can expect discounts on the majority of what fills Walmart's shelves: highly subsidized, processed food made with genetically modified ingredients.
Basically, we can expect discounts on all the foods that continue to contribute to America's obesity issues. It's been well documented that Walmart's influence on our dietary habits has been less than positive. According to a recent study, people who live near a Walmart are at a greater risk of obesity.
Perhaps then, instead of lowering food prices, the store should actually be raising them. I think the Organic Authority said it best, "If Walmart were to raise its prices to reflect what that bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos really cost to produce, it's just possible that Americans wouldn't be so quick to toss it into their shopping carts without really thinking about where it comes from and just exactly why that thought process matters for their own health, the health of our farming system and the health of our economy."