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Friday, January 06, 2006

Thank You, Walmart

Walmart is sparing no expense today to assure both traditional media and the internet that they are wracked with grief over the racially insenstive accident generated by their online "mapping" program. The corporate PR machine is on red alert at the highest echelons to assure everyone how very much they care.

Oh and screw the homeless:
January 6, 2006: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the nation's largest food retailer, said Thursday it will no longer donate nearly-expired or expired food to local groups feeding the hungry.

Instead, that food will be thrown away, a move several Sacramento charities consider wasteful.

Olan James, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the policy, which applies to all 1,224 Wal-Marts, 1,929 Supercenters and 558 Sam's Clubs, is an attempt to protect the corporation from liability in case someone who eats the donated food gets sick.

"We can't guarantee the safety of the merchandise, and consumer safety is our top priority," said James in a telephone interview from Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas.

Most charities get their food from an array of sources, and they say the loss of Wal-Mart or Sam's Club donations won't make a huge dent in their stockpiles. But as increasingly efficient grocery stores have less to donate, charities worry the stream of food donations from grocers is diminishing.

"If they were giving it away somewhere else that wouldn't be so bad, but the fact is, it's going into the garbage," said Owen Foley of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Locker at Presentation Church in Sacramento. "I mean, there's a big need."

Foley said the breads, pies and cakes his group received from the Sam's Club on El Camino Avenue helped round out the meals served to more than 900 families last year.

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."

"Lord, we get millions and millions of pounds from Raley's and Bel-Air and Albertson's, and they don't have a problem understanding the law," Brown said. "Why don't Wal-Mart and Sam's Club understand the law?"

James said he is not aware of anybody suing Wal-Mart after getting sick from donated food.
I'd probably be a bit more convinced of their social sensitivity if they devoted a bit less money and muscle to assuring everyone that their online software is not staffed by crackers and showed some concern for people who will only be too grateful to receive what they will otherwise consign to the garbage.

Don't you think it would be a really nice gesture if Walmart decided to restore these donations to the homeless today?

(hat tip to reader Susan)

Photo by Harvey Finkle from Urban Nomads: The Poor People's Movement