* Retailer donating 35 refrigerated trucks to food banks
* More seniors face hunger-study
By Nicole Maestri
NEW YORK, Nov 3 Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is
directing much of its U.S. holiday giving this month to
providing food as a record number of Americans resort to food
stamps and donations to feed their families.
The world's largest retailer has increased its U.S. holiday
donation by 28 percent this year, with part of the $32 million
earmarked for hunger relief.
"We're the largest grocer in the country, so I think we
feel a real responsibility to respond to hunger," said Margaret
McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation, in an interview.
"There's been over a 100 percent increase in the number of
people going to a food bank for the first time in their life,"
Wal-Mart and the Walmart Foundation have teamed up with
Feeding America to donate 35 refrigerator trucks filled with
food to food banks. It is also giving a $2.2 million grant to
the Meals On Wheels Association of America, which provides food
to the elderly, homebound or disabled.
The number of Americans on food stamp assistance jumped in
July to a record 35.85 million, marking the seventh month in a
row of record-setting participation, according to the latest
U.S. government data available. [ID:nN30238207]
In response, an increasing number of retailers, including
Wal-Mart, Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O), and BJ's Wholesale
Club Inc BJ.N, are accepting food stamps as payment.
Meanwhile, a study conducted for Meals on Wheels found a
rising number those 60 years old or older face the risk of
hunger. About 700,000 more seniors faced that risk in 2007 than
they did in 2001, the study stated.
"This increase is before the trough of the current economic
downturn is realized, and thus ongoing monitoring of food
insecurity among seniors in coming years is especially
warranted," the report stated.
McKenna said seniors are often a forgotten group.
"But seniors have been a big part of the Wal-Mart community
for a long time, both in terms of shoppers and in terms of ...
employees," she said.
The grant Wal-Mart is providing to Meals On Wheels will be
used to upgrade or replace delivery vehicles, stoves,
refrigerators and freezers. The refrigerator trucks being
donated to food banks will be used to transport items like
produce, deli meat, beef, and chicken.
In its last fiscal year, Wal-Mart gave more than $378
million in cash and in-kind gifts in the United States, up from
$296 million the prior year. For its fiscal year ended Jan. 31,
Wal-Mart rang up $255.75 billion in U.S. sales, up from $239.53
billion the year before.
(Reporting by Nicole Maestri, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)