My design research lately has had me focusing attention on food insecurity in students and low-income families. As examined in "Checking out of Supermarkets" chapter of "Stuffed and Starved" by Raj Patel, Walmart makes for a multitude of case studies of how those that are economically challenged are subject to being trapped by the power house retailer. My family, like most families in town, became Walmart devotees when the very first Walmart opened in our town in the late 1980's. It seemed that we simply did not have a choice to shop anywhere else, with Walmart we were able to have a variety of food, clothing and household options. As a kid, it made total sense and was even fun to go on a family outing to the superstore because it meant Pop Tarts, my favorite cereals and a trip down toy aisle!
As I've grown older, I've learned the cost of those low prices and have made Walmart a "last resort" type of shopping obligation. Now being back at school and on a fixed income, I find myself striving for solutions outside of Walmart. For the sake of my recent research topic I will limit this comparison to food quality. It is quite boggling to compare the quantity of meals one can obtain at Walmart as compared to my favorite local grocers offering organic and more sustainable foods, so I still have to depend on Walmart for some of the basics. But when I consider families who simply haven't the funds or shopping time for other options, its easy to see how Walmart dominates.
In my current project I am striving to find just one solution to help low-income students or families skip the Walmart trip and gain access to healthier, more sustainable options in their local communities. One idea is bringing healthy locally grown food donated by local farmers or organizations to places people need them, such as in downtown Davis, and in or near schools where people often rush and miss meals. I would also like to provide some resources for them to access more food and people in their community to cook with to cut down on trips to the grocery store.
Walmart sales last year were $419 billion. It will take a lot to get people out of the Walmart trap but a little freedom can go a long way!