The National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington last week brought to light some of the fundamental internal contradictions of the anti-hunger movement. Specifically, the movement’s financial reliance on corporations with poverty-causing labor practices, as well as their reluctance to advocate on the politically-charged root causes of hunger.
Hosted by Feeding America and the Food Research Action Center, with funding from Walmart, Bank of America and the AARP Foundation, this year’s event featured, for the second year in a row, a prominent representative from Walmart as a plenary speaker. Tres Bailey, Walmart’s Senior Manager of Agriculture and Food, listed off the accomplishments the company has made in its first year of its $2 billion commitment to supporting anti-hunger efforts: 250 million pounds of food donated to food banks; $67 million in grants made; with another $13 million of nutrition education grants in the works.
This sounds impressive until one considers what Mr. Bailey did not mention: the fact that the average Walmart worker, of which there are 1.4 million in the US, earns $8.81 per hour. At this pay rate, a single parent with one child working full time would qualify for food stamps. The public is subsidizing Walmart billions of dollars annually to keep its employees productive, healthy and free of hunger through government food and healthcare programs, yet the company crows about the millions of dollars it distributes to anti-hunger causes. Upon closer examination, what appeared to be an impressive display of philanthropy is little more than Arkansas chutzpah.