By Nima Kapadia
Wal-Mart, once criticized for pushing local merchants out of the picture as it installed itself in every burg and hamlet in America, has now launched an effort that could build up some local businesses, namely those run by local farmers. The world’s largest retailer has announced plans to purchase $400 million worth of local fruits and vegetables to sell in its “Supercenters” and neighborhood stores this year.
“Offering local produce has been a Wal-Mart priority for years, and we’re taking it to a new level with a pledge to grow our partnerships with local farmers,” said Pam Kohn, general merchandise manager for grocery at Wal-Mart, in a statement.
Kohn noted that Wal-Mart’s partnerships with local farmers have already increased 50 percent over the past two years. Wal-Mart also purchases 70 percent of its produce from U.S.-based suppliers, making it the largest single customer of American agriculture.
In addition to having fresher produce, the changes also will bring a reduction in “food miles” – the distance food travels from the farm to your plate. The U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture estimates that produce travels an average of 1,500 miles.
The types of produce recently sourced by Wal-Mart include:
- 12 million pounds of peaches from 18 different states, not just from well-known growing areas such as Georgia.
- Purchasing fresh cilantro from Florida instead of California, resulting in an estimated savings of 250,000 food miles in a single season.
Overall, Wall-Mart has already saved 670,000 in food miles and 112,000 in gasoline consumption. Kohn hopes that consumers will take advantage of the local produce, which will be clearly marked throughout the stores with official state-grown marks and seals of approval for each state’s agricultural department.
For more information on Wal-Mart’s green initiatives, or to see a list of local foods available in your state, visit their web site.
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