This NYT story, about food banks tightening their belts due to food shortages, is attracting lots of attention this morning.
In this time of need, let’s remember this oldie but goodie from the Modesto Bee (via Monsterfodder since its no longer in their archives) in January 2006:
Directors of local charities reacted with surprise and disappointment Thursday after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it would no longer donate food near or past its expiration date to groups feeding the hungry.
A spokesman for the nation’s largest food retailer said the food will be thrown away to protect the corporation from liability in case someone becomes sick from the donated food. The policy will apply to all 1,224 Wal-Marts, 1,929 Wal-Mart Supercenters and 558 Sam’s Clubs.
This excuse is total B.S., as the Sacramento Bee explained at that time:
Ernie Brown, a spokesman for Sacramento’s Senior Gleaners, which received about 25,000 pounds of food in 2005 from Sam’s Club on Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights, said most food is fine to eat for days after the “sell-by” date.
He said Wal-Mart’s concerns about liability seem misplaced in light of the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a federal law passed in 1996 offering food donors wide-ranging protections from civil lawsuits or criminal prosecution. The law states that donors can be held liable only in instances of “gross negligence.”
Wal-Mart deserves a lot more heat on this issue. In fact, they should have gotten it when they made that decision, but nobody seemed to care then but me.
Is Wal-Mart responsible for this shortage? I don’t know. But there are two ways it could be: 1) If other grocery stores followed their lead or if 2) There aren’t any other grocery stores left to donate food. And yes, I know Wal-Mart gives tons of money (as opposed to food) to food banks and food pantries, but that certainly hasn’t prevented this shortfall, has it? Wal-Mart seems much more concerned about turning the hungry into customers than with actually feeding them.
Wait! I just found a third way Wal-Mart contributes to this problem. Here’s the Appalachian News Express (KY) (via USA Today) on the food bank shortfall there:
Charles Sanders of a nearby group called Helping Ease Life’s Poverty says demand is up 12-13%. “Most of these people work at Wal-Mart or Kmart and they only let them have 20 hours a week at minimum wage, and you can’t make it on 20 hours a week,” he tells the News-Express.
So let’s review: The customers are hungry. The employees are hungry. There is food all over half the store. This situation reminds me of Coleridge:
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.