I’m on a panel for the NYAS’s conference on Conflicts of Interest in Healthcare: Opportunities for Self-Reflection and Action, June 24-25. Location: 7 World Trade Center. 250 Greenwich St, 40th Floor. Information and registration are here. My panel is on the 25th at 10:45 a.m. , Session VI: Hot topic discussion: getting to the truth in nutrition science. Other panelists are Mona Calvo fro Penn State, Mehmood Khan from Life Biosciences, and Linda Van Horn from Northwestern. Moderator is Julia Belluz from Vox.
Is Walmart the biggest SNAP beneficiary?
Here’s are some things I’d really like to know:
- How much food assistance money gets spent at Walmart?
- How many Walmart “associates” get SNAP benefits?
The USDA does not collect data on how SNAP recipients spend their benefits but I’ve been interested in these questions since reading Michele Simon’s report, “Follow the Money: Are Corporations Profiting from Hungry Americans?”
Our research found that at least three powerful industry sectors benefit from SNAP:
1) major food manufacturers such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Mars;
2) leading food retailers such as Walmart and Kroger; and
3) large banks, such as J.P. Morgan Chase, which contract with states to help administer SNAP benefits.
Now the Los Angeles Times is asking the same questions. It points out that Walmart’s annual filing with the Security and Exchange Commission, which is required to list potential risks to profits, includes this mention among many others:
changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, (and) changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans.
Translation: if Congress cuts SNAP and makes it harder for poor people to get benefits, Walmart loses money. Three reasons:
- People on food assistance spend a lot of their benefits in Walmart.
- Walmart employees qualify for food assistance benefits.
- Its business model will lose its taxpayer-supported subsidies.
The L.A. Times refers to other stories on the same topic
- Barry Ritholtz’s Bloomberg account of how food corporations encourage employees to get federal assistance benefits
- Good Jobs First’s state-by-state analysis of how many Walmart employees get Medicaid and food stamp benefits
Maybe Congress would be kinder to SNAP benefits if it understood that big corporations benefit so much from them.
Walmart, by the way, sold $466 billion worth of goods in 2013, of which roughly half comes from groceries.