I got this slightly old but rather interesting link from my friend Jill. The paper is USA Today:
In July, Wal-Mart pledged to source more local fruits and vegetables and noted, in a press release, that 20% of the fresh produce in its supercenters in the summer was already local, making Wal-Mart the "nation's largest purchaser of local produce." For a Florida store, that 20% would include any citrus grown in Florida even if it's also sold nationwide, says Wal-Mart spokeswoman Caren Epstein. "They're not defrauding people, but counting a product that is nationally shipped as local doesn't seem to be within the meaning of locally grown," says Jim Prevor, editor of Produce Business and author of the online Perishable Pundit. Prevor also says that 1,000-acre farms may surprise consumers who equate "local" with "a 3-acre blueberry farm." Wal-Mart declined further comment. [Emphasis added]Let that sink in for a moment. If you live ten miles away from a gigantic industrial farm, anything you buy at your local Walmart that comes from that farm still counts as "local food" as far as the company is concerned. Leave aside for a moment the fact that this defeats the entire purpose of the local food movement. Focus on Walmart's claim that it is the largest purchaser of local food in the United States. I will bet you a million dollars that Walmart is also the largest purchaser of non-local food in the United States. Both these distinctions would derive from Walmart's likely status of being the country's largest purchaser of food in general. Walmart didn't have to lift a finger to join the local food band wagon because under this convenient definition of local food it's already there. This kind of fake reform really is just par for the course at the company. Walmart apparently thinks that sacrifice is for suckers. Look at all those supplier mandates on waste and even RFID. And of course, every single green remodeling step the company takes will also save it on energy costs. Is it too much to ask for the nation's largest company to do something some time that is not at all self-interested? Walmart's public relations philosophy is all gain, no pain. That's why the company absolutely refuses to confront the obvious fact that no matter how much it cuts its own energy consumption, Walmart's suppliers and its customers will continue to expend energy and generate waste in service of its bottom line long into the forseeable future. Externalities are the crazy aunt that Walmart's got locked in the basement, and one of these days she's going to get out. Update: the food-inclined among you might be interested in Jill's blog, La Vida Locavore.