Walmart Profits off Food Stamp Recipients—Who Cares?

Chelsea Gomez/FlickrChelsea Gomez/FlickrLast Friday, Walmart filed an annual report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. On a list of the many factors that could hurt the company financially—federal interest rate changes, natural disasters, cyberattacks, untimely trendspotting—Walmart also included "changes in the amount of payments" made under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other public assistance programs.  

This seems relatively reasonable and noncontroversial, no? Walmart is known for having low prices and catering to a low-income crowd. Some low-income families rely on SNAP benefits, aka food stamps, to buy their groceries. Drastic cuts to the SNAP program might result in poor families buying less food and, therefore, spending less at Walmart. Walmart is a for-profit company, and therefore things that decrease profits are viewed as risks. 

@ThusSpokeDill/Twitter@ThusSpokeDill/Twitter@JakeRBright/Twitter@JakeRBright/Twitter

And, yet, some folks are trying to frame Walmart's realistic assessment of its customer base and liabilities as an admission of some sort of nefarious strategy. It's very odd. Food stamp users have to shop somewhere, and Walmart is often cheaper than other grocery stores and has more (and healthier) options than the local bodega or 7-Eleven. 

@teigland_cindy/Twitter@teigland_cindy/Twitter@AllenHarkleroad/Twitter@AllenHarkleroad/Twitter

I suppose the animosity shouldn't be surprising—Walmart can do no right in some eyes—but that Walmart is an affordable and accessible option for many on food stamps seems like a benefit to me, not a bug. If there is cause to be upset at here, it's the fact that so many Americans are unemployed, living in poverty, and forced to rely on food stamps in the first place. It is not the fact that a company provides them with a place to buy affordable food (no matter how much you might personally not like that company).  

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  • John||

    But I thought poor people lived in food deserts where they couldn't purchase decent food? So, lets make it so no one can make any money selling food to food stamp recipients. I am sure that will solve the "food desert" problem real quick.

    Every day I am more amazed at how stupid these people are. Really, how can anyone be this stupid?

  • Ted S.||

    It's not stupidity; it's naked bigotry.

  • Mokers||

    A lot of people on SNAP like to get the most bang for their back and seek out the best deal for their food. Walmart gives them the best deal. Why is this some sort of revelation?

  • John||

    WAll Mart is a godsend for working and poor people.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    ....and grad students (though that might qualify as your second category).

  • RBS||

    Yeah, but rednecks shop there.

  • JW||

    Icky!

  • Loki||

    Which is one the reasons progs, especially of the limousine libtard variety, hate Wal-Mart. It's not that poor people shop there, it's that when you walk into a Wal-Mart you feel like you're at Honey Boo-Boo's family reunion - white trash everywhere. NTTAWWT

  • KPres||

    One of the reasons? It's the only reason. Target pays their people the same as Wal-Mart. Where are the complaints?

  • Michael S. Langston||

    I don't shop Wal-Mart often due to it's specific location from me, but if while I was there I thought I was at Honey Boo-Boo's family reunion I wouldn't shop there either.

    Maybe the WalMarts I've been too are different; but I never got this redneck/backwoods vibe.

  • entropy||

    The prices at walmart aren't cheaper that I have noticed. WalMart seems like less of a godsend and more of a marketing success.

  • Rhywun||

    So people only *think* they're paying less...? Stupid people.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Prices definitely are cheaper, depending what you buy.

  • Rhywun||

    Sure. I was commenting on the idiotic notion expressed above me that people are too stupid to know if they're saving money.

  • RBS||

    To be fair, there are some people who "save" money by using coupons to buy things they don't actually ever use.

  • John||

    Cheaper is a relative term. I don't know where else you shop, so I can't doubt you. But I can assure you their prices are "cheaper" than the alternatives available in every small town or inner city I have ever lived.

  • KDN||

    Personal experience: WalMart's not really cheaper for smart shoppers, but they are substantially cheaper for those that ignore sales, coupons, and store brand goods. I generally avoid it because of the atmosphere, lack of customer service, and general shittyness of their generic goods, but I don't judge those that have a different calculus.

    One thing that shocked me is how much more expensive Sam's Club is compared to BJ's and Costco around here. You're better off just sticking with regular WalMart.

  • John||

    If you think of your time as an asset, Wall Mart is still cheaper since you don't have to worry about coupons and such.

  • KPres||

    You've never waited in line at Wal-Mart.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    For bad service though - you're talking about geographical/specific issues - normally if customer service sucks at the Wal-Mart you are at - if will likely suck at the Target across the street.

    & vice versa - if it's good at the store next door, it's usually good at Wal-Mart.

    Cause hate 'em if you will (and certainly don't shop there for any reason you wish), but Target / WalMart pay roughly same rates, have good internal systems to promote from within/build teamwork/etc - so the likelihood two competing stores close together differ a great deal in customer service is pretty small.

    & the reason is the employee base comes from the same geographical region.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Ya. I guess they just shop at WalMart for the atmosphere, and because it's so cool to be seen there. Kind of like Whole Foods. I think you figured it out.

  • gimmeasammich||

    I guess they just shop at WalMart for the atmosphere

    I guess you have never heard of People of Walmart? What is more fun than seeing the sadder parts of society while picking up your motor oil, shotgun shells, and ground beef?

  • gimmeasammich||

    Though this may be the exception and not the rule, I have seen and known several people in college who bought steaks and other luxury-ish items with their food stamps and spent their real money on XBox games. Meanwhile, I'm scrounging by on rice and beans so I can buy my games (used at GameStop, of course).

  • Pathogen||

    'Cause they should be getting rooked down at a whole foods store, or at least a unionized grocer. Wal-Mart is the parasite here...

  • Pathogen||

    But.. but.. korperashuns... Eeevul..

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I pretty sure "food desert" is a concept that nanny statists came up with in order to explain why the affordable food options that spring up around poor neighborhoods are still not good enough.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I'm reminded of an advocate of the "food desert" concept who told me the fruit and vegetables sold at Wal-Mart didn't count because they weren't as fresh as other stores.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    lol @ they weren't as fresh as other stores

    I assume they offered proof?

  • ||

    It's a concept that nanny statists came up with to explain why poor people eat junk food.

    It can't be because of any personal failing. It must be because of some horrible societal pressure or market force that just COMPELLS them to eat frozen pizzas. THEY HAVE NO OTHER CHOISE!

  • Caleb Turberville||

    They are merely eating the most satisfying food that the producer is willing to sell at an affordable price.

    Steaks houses you see in wealthier, suburban neighborhoods are just as unhealthy. Again, people are buying the most satisfying meal that their money can afford.

  • ||

    LIE! Everyone secretly wants to eat fresh vegetables! The only reason they don't is because the evil market won't sell them in sufficient quantities!

  • Marty Rheaume||

    A steak is most certainly not as unhealthy as a frozen pizza.

  • ||

    John, just read Steve Dill's idiocy in the article.

    It is good to hurt walmart, even though it hurts poor people, which is bad.

    The level of unawareness and logic fail there is just....I don't even know what to say about it.

  • John||

    No I didn't. But it doesn't surprise me. They are just fucking insane.

  • Sudden||

    Yeah, when I saw that tweet it was like a nails scratching the chalkboard of my brain. That anyone can maintain such cognitive dissonance astounds me.

  • ||

    But, John, all profits are theft. You havn't read your catechism.

    Only by nationalizing Walmart and running it as a Peoples Cooperative can we remove the evil and inefficient profits from the system.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Does Walmart have more options when it comes to alt-text?

  • Pathogen||

    You have to order them online, but they ship to site...

  • SIV||

    The entire grocery and processed foods industries profit off food stamps. Who do these progtards think gets the subsidy?

  • John||

    And why do these Progtards think the program is administered by the Department of Agriculture? The program is a subsidy for the food and agriculture industry.

  • SIV||

    As I was typing below. It's teh CORPORATE WELFARE

  • kbolino||

    It amazes me how people, nominally on both sides of our narrow political spectrum, get downright indignant when confronted with the fairly obvious fact that food stamps are a demand-side agricultural subsidy.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    When I was working as a stockboy after school, I could always be sure I wouldn't miss the start of a new month for long if I had forgotten what the date was.

  • Rhywun||

    I was a cashier for most of my college years - on Food Stamp day folks basically bought an entire month's of food at once. Lines would go down the aisles, 4 or 5 carts to a family. It was unreal.

  • Loki||

    That's why I try not to go grocery shopping the first week of the month if I can avoid it.

  • Rhywun||

    This was 20 years ago, but I thought they had since changed it so the money is distributed throughout the month? Then again I live in NYC now and nobody seems to shop that way here so I could be mistaken about that.

  • Stoic||

    They still get their cards loaded at the beginning of the month (at least in NC and WI). Maybe having the card makes them feel less of an urge to spend it all right away vs. having paper vouchers.

  • ||

    Standard playbook. It is not the results that matter, it is the intentions, and how deeply you Cared that counts.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Do you homebrew at all? I can't remember seeing you involved in any of those threads.

    Tarran, feel free to chime in too.

  • Raston Bot||

    Are you using SNAP to buy bulk malt?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm seeing if we should set up a Reason brew day around Boston.

  • ||

    I'd do that just to watch and learn. Well, and drink.

  • ||

    No, screwed around with it once but I'm too busy to commit. And then I went low carb, so actually I've taken a recent interest in home distilling, although I am worried about the poisoning-yourself-and-going-blind part.

  • CraterMaker||

    Just a formula based on volume, nothing tricky about it. Throw away (or store properly marked for other purposes) the first 3/4 of a pint jar for a ten gallon batch (I discard a whole pint to reassure the wife) - and if you havent purchased yet, can I recommend www.clawhammersupply.com ? Ten gallon version is definately a deal, wasn't too hard to put together either.

  • R C Dean||

    I've taken a recent interest in home distilling, although I am worried about the poisoning-yourself-and-going-blind part.

    Don't forget the going-to-jail part.

  • CraterMaker||

    Well, selling it will get you there - But making it? Some states it's legal, most it's just a misdemeanor. Small fine, slap on the wrist, if they even care.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    My roommates and I used to home distill stuff a few years ago (still have the still; need to get back into it...) and I was honestly shocked to find out it was still illegal. Maybe b/c I grew up with family in Kentucky, but I just assumed laws against it were an antiquated thing...

  • RBS||

    I'm trying to figure out which of those tweets is the dumbest.

  • Paul.||

    All of them.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If only the deserving poor could get their approved government cheeze directly from the Ministry of Plenty.

    That would show those nefarious capitalists!

  • SIV||

    We All Gotta Duck When the Shit Hits the Fan

    free loaves of bread ,5 pound blocks of cheese,bags of groceries...

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I gotta' go full Circle Jerks angry edition.

  • tarran||

    This is excellent news; everybody crowing and spreading the word that "Walmart Depends on Food stamps" is clearly a worthless hack and need not be taken seriously!

    They are doing serious thinkers a favor, as if they put on special clothes and ran up a special flag to signal us that they were worthless hacks!

  • Ted S.||

    I think this would have been a more appropriate picture.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I wonder if insurance companies take changes in the federal flood insurance program into account when projecting results.

    DAMN DIRTY KKKAPITALISTS!

  • Sidd Finch||

    I was just sitting here thinking, "What do Cindy Teigland and Allen Harkleroad think about Walmart?" What a timely post.

  • Paul.||

    Now you know. You could also, you know, follow them on facebook as well.

  • SIV||

    Twitter is the new "Man on the street" handily sorted to preserve reporters' shoe leather and confirmation biases.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Maybe Allen Harkleroad is the new Greg Packer.

  • SIV||

    Food stamps are an ag subsidy, that's why the program is administered by the US Department of Agriculture. When PA was debating means testing food stamps (as every fucking state should) there were no legions of community organizers protesting, it was the large supermarket chains crying how much they'd lose and how many jobs would have to be cut.

    SNAP is CORPORATE WELFARE that incidentally puts grape drank,candy and potato chips into hungry children's mouths.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I'm surprised none of those twits referred to that Walmart employee who qualified for food stamps that time.

  • entropy||

    Walmart Profits off Food Stamp Recipients—Who Cares?

    You should care, because the largest retailer in the US depends on free dole money to stay in business and will lobby like the devil to make sure there isn't less of it.

  • entropy||

    It's like a microcosm of our whole phoney economy.

  • John||

    I seriously doubt Wall Mart would go broke if we eliminated food stamps.

    That said, yes, I am quite sure they and every other grocery chain loves food stamps and would love to see them increased. Their support is no doubt the biggest reason why have a food stamp program. Yet, Progs would keep them from making money off the program if they could.

    Progs really are epically stupid.

  • SIV||

    They wouldn't go broke but they'd have to close stores and margins would drop with the falling prices.

  • Mokers||

    Progs really are epically stupid.

    Our subsidies don't benefit the right kind of companies! Market Failure!

  • Adam330||

    Just a few months ago all the progs were complaining the Walmart wasn't lobbying for more SNAP. Now the complaint is they might lobby for it in the future. Can you please make up your minds.

    "A spokesperson for Walmart, one of the largest supermarket chains (and whose customers frequently use food stamps), told The Daily Beast the company doesn’t have a position on SNAP cuts and that it “hasn’t been an issue that Walmart has taken a stance on in the past or now.”"

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/a.....-cuts.html

  • Paul.||

    Doesn't every grocery store in the U.S. also do this?

  • Pathogen||

    Just the non-union ones... and they must be stopped!

  • Ted S.||

    Not the progressive stores that want to keep out the poor riff-raff.

  • Rick O'Shay||

    I'm sure they don't all employ major lobbyists.

  • JW||

    Fuck human welfare. That's for chumps.

    What's far more important is punishing your political enemies.

  • ||

    What progressives hate about WalMart isn't so much that it's a big box store, or that it caters to the poor. What they hate about is that it was founded by a Christian conservative.

    Deep down, it is all culture war derp. Sam Walton represents every stereotype they have about Republicans and religious conservatives. He is everything they hate and Walmart is a symbol of everything they detest about middle America.

  • JeremyR||

    No, what progressives hate about Walmart is that it's for poor people. Progressives are the most class conscious people on Earth.

    I really doubt most of them know who the founder of Wal-mart is, much less his religious affiliation (which certainly doesn't impact their stores in any way. The only religious material I've seen was for Obama during the elections)

  • Adam330||

    Are these people arguing that Walmart should refuse to take SNAP? I can just imagine the talking points- Walmart hates poor people because it refuses SNAP.

  • Rhywun||

    Poor people should just be given everything for free, and nobody should be allowed to profit anywhere down the supply chain because... poor people. Who are poor. Come on, what is wrong with you people.

  • ||

    THE MATCH OF THE CENTURY PEOPLE!!

    What do progressives hate more?

    In the right corner: POVERTY

    In the left corner: WALMART

    Which of these iconic targets of progressive concerns will win?

  • John||

    It is not even close Hazel. Progs love poverty. Poverty and the sense of feeling superior to poor people is their entire reason for existing.

  • ||

    You take your fucking snake-handler mindreading witchcraft and get the fuck out of here.

  • John||

    LOL

    I loom large occasionally too!!

  • ||

    They don't hate poverty. What would they have to feel morally superior about in a world without poverty?

  • OldMexican||

    I suppose the animosity shouldn't be surprising — Walmart can do no right in some eyes[...]


    But that is it, Elizabeth: for the anti-freedom, anti-market ideologues, things like Walmart or fast-food joints can never do anything right. Proggies live in a bipolar world where they want someone to pay people a "living wage" so that they can live like cavemen lest they destroy the earth. You CAN'T give these folks any intellectual consideration because they are not serious; they're not unlike pyramid worshipers or millenarist end-of-earthers.

  • JeremyR||

    What is pro market about Walmart taking government money?

    What is pro market about the government giving assistance to Walmart workers because they are too cheap to pay people a salary they can live on?

    This is exactly why corporations love big government and socialism. They get much richer that way.

    They don't have to take care of employees, the government does. And they can use government to give them all sorts of sweet deals and drive out competition.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: JeremyR,

    What is pro market about Walmart taking government money?


    It is still money, Jeremy. Walmart is a business, and like all businesses, they trade goods for money.

    What is pro market about the government giving assistance to Walmart workers[...]


    What is this assistance you talk about? Do you mean food stamps? If government gives food stamps to Walmart workers, it could only be because the government is trying to ingratiate itself with potential voters.

    This is exactly why corporations love big government and socialism. They get much richer that way.


    No question about it, but don't stray like that from the conversation.

    They don't have to take care of employees, the government does.


    Ok, now this is silly. The government is not taking care of Walmart employees. Walmart is a business; what it does is sell goods. Walmart employees are also in business of selling their labor. Both Walmart and employees agree to a price for labor, otherwise those employees would be doing something else. Your opinion on what wages Walmart should be offering is thus completely meaningless.

  • Sudden||

    If there were truly a just and loving God, this would result in the proggies lining up to end SNAP.

    But it won't. They'll just argue we need to increase the benefit in order to convince teh poor to shop at the local organic co-op.

    The end result will be Wal-Mart's next stockholder report discussing the record sales of caviar, lobster, and foie gras.

  • Adam330||

    So next time there is a debate in Congress over SNAP, I'm sure we can expect these four dopes to advocate ending it since all it does it prop up big corporations. Right? Right?

  • Paul.||

    No, they would just suggest that people on Food Stamps only be able to expend them on organic kale at Whole Foods.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    Walmart actually has fine organic kale.

  • John B. Egan||

    The issue is not that Walmart thrives on selling to our neediest citizens, it is that the company manufactures those needy people from their own employee base, thereby generating a vicious circle of dependency wherein their own employees spend their food stamps at Walmart's stores.

    I'm not going to beat the dead horse over the wealth of the Walmart heirs, or the massive pay the CEO gets, but this clip from another article shows exactly what's wrong with Walmart:

    "To make matters worse, these abusive Walmart policies have increased employee reliance on government assistance and the need for a government funded social safety net. In fact, Walmart has become the number one driver behind the growing use of food stamps in the United States with "as many as 80 percent of workers in Wal-Mart stores using food stamps.""

  • Paul.||

    The issue is not that Walmart thrives on selling to our neediest citizens, it is that the company manufactures those needy people from their own employee base,

    Oh this tired canard, that Walmart Creates The Conditions that Forces People To Shop There.

    I guess it would just be better if those jobs didn't exist.

  • ||

    Haven't you heard how making everyone spend more money improves their welfare?

  • montana mike||

    /derp

  • SIV||

    Why don't Walmart employees sell their labor to a union grocery store? Because it pays about the same and then they pay union dues out of their checks!

    Walmart has to pay competitive wages or nobody works there. Retail pay is shit.

  • ||

    Because the union grocery stores are being undercut by the evil low prices at Walmart. Because the people who shop at Walmart should be forced to pay more for shit, to support the people who work at Walmart, who are the same people who shop at Walmart. One wonders how making everyone pay more for stuff and simultaneously increasing their wages is supposed to make people better off, buy, HEY,LOOK, KEYNES!!!!

  • The Last American Hero||

    So if you are dirt poor and chronically unemployed, the only place you might be able to get into the workforce is at an employer that offers flexible work schedules to unskilled folks...like Walmart, fast food, or Target. But you would rather have them 100% on the dole or have them earn a govt mandated "living wage" which results in higher unemployment and thus more people on the dole.

    Not sure about your dead horse issue or how that is relevant to anything. Oh that's right, you believe in the myth of zero sum economics.

    By the way, are those employees forced to work at Walmart at gun point or could they quit and go find a better job if the conditions are unacceptable?

  • ||

    I think you can blame government for almost all of the issues that require so many people to need SNAP, hell they even push on citizens like a heron dealer in Detroit.

  • ||

    The idea that welfare subsidizes Walmart's wages is patently absurd.

    I don't know anyone who will work for less money because they don't "need" as much of it. Especially not people at minimum wage level.

    Seriously, what sort of poor person thinks to themselves: "Ok, I'm getting these food stamps so I guess I will tell my employer to pay me less cause I don't need the money."

    You don't stop trying to get paid more until you're earning upwards of $200,000 a year, and maybe not even then.

  • Tony||

    What the fuck are you talking about?

    You people need to dislodge yourselves from the mouth hole of corporate America; you are making yourselves look ridiculous.

    If full-time workers can't make enough to avoid even this country's meager safety net programs, then there is a problem.

  • jmomls||

    Maybe "full-time workers" should get some co-habitants that also work "full-time" and stop having so many children and/or living in the most expensive areas of the US.

  • ||

    This is the thought process of the "left", a truly frightening outlook. People with a very constrained budget shopping at places that allow them to maximize their potential baskets, o tempora! O mores!

  • See.More||

    Wait. What?

    It is a revelation worthy of demonizing Wal*Mart that they accept SNAP and, therefore, profit off food stamps, but...

    No mention about Target, Kroger, Publix, Winn Dixie, and every other venue that accepts SNAP and, therefore, profits off food stamps too.

  • concerned cynic||

    Walmart is not evil by selling groceries to people who pay with SNAP. The same holds for Safeway and Kroger.

    I have repeatedly encountered another critique of Walmart's dealings with the SNAP program. Walmart is accused of paying low wages and no health benefits, and then quietly reminding employees who complain, that they qualify for SNAP and Medicaid. Walmart is accused of using public funds to subsidise its employment costs.

  • concerned cynic||

    I do not agree that a large fraction of Walmart's employees qualify for food stamps. Many Walmart employees are women working part time, who have husbands who work full time and are the family's primary support.

  • Akeve||

    I also really like Walmart frame Food Stamp Recipients. Above seen Walmart food stamp is looking so attractive and that is helpful to attract more customers.

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