Folks, you know the world is changing around us when one of the greatest bastions of low brow conventional mediocrity, that well known ‘smiley face’ emblazoned warehouse filled with blue vested sufferers who schlep through endless aisles bulging with poorly made Chinese “goods”– yes, indeed, when any sort of change hits at this level of ‘home’ you do know that the change has come in earnest.
I happen to live in a very small rural Texas town that doesn’t have a grocery store (but we do have one stop light and two gas stations!) and so any grocery shopping has to be done in one of the neighboring larger towns. And if you should have a sudden terrific need for just one or two items — say, pickles, or band-aids, or aluminum foil or what have you — the nearest oasis of convenience is, of course, Walmart. It’s just 5-6 miles down the road, on the edge of the next bustling town of thousands, nestled in it’s own trashy, steaming complex of parking lots. By the time you secure a parking space (errant shopping carts always take up all the good ones) you are obliged to walk in about a half mile and trudge through the hesitant automated doors with at least 6 globs of car oil and molten gum smacking from your shoes.
A “greeter” is immediately on you, saying “Welcome to Walmart!” sometimes directly into your face but more often from a safe distance where they can better avoid being asked to pull out a grocery cart or attempt other risky maneuvers. I might ask “where is the produce section” but I wouldn’t have to anymore because Wally World finally caught on (took a few years) and moved the produce section right up front.
I remember the days when there were no “Super Walmarts” and they didn’t even have real grocery sections (nor did Target). The only food items they sold beyond the multiple aisles of umpteen candies, cookies, sugary snacks (a veritable bomb blast of sugar in the middle of every store) — were a few odd canned items, and some dried goods sitting sadly on an endcap like wallflowers waiting to be noticed while the the decadent prom of high fructose sugar whatnots in gleaming packages cavorted brazenly behind them.
There are currently twin crises in America of obesity and diabetes and surely some of the blame for it must be laid upon Walmart and the other big box stores, grocery stores and convenience stores. They have all been pushing and pimping high sugar, salt and saturated fat “food” to Americans without restraint at least since the 1950’s; and now we are reaping the whirlwind of health crises that these corporations have not only done much to create but have profited from outrageously.
But now Walmart has turned the page in some small way, not only right here in small town Texas but all across the nation apparently. Well, no they are not acknowledging the obesity and health crisis they did their part to produce. And no they are not finally, at long last, offering adequate health insurance to all their employees and paying each one a living wage while the Wal family takes home billions.
No, no — don’t get too excited — none of the above has happened yet, But! there has been a little bit of unexpected progress that I have been able to spot right here in a backwater town in Texas. Yes, indeed, I happened upon it just the other day when I discovered I was out of tofu and decided on a lark to stop by and see if Walmart had even discovered the existence of tofu much less carried any.
And, by heavens, what a surprise! Why, it must have been the first blue vesty that I came upon that told me they certainly did have tofu, and it was safely ensconced in the produce area between the funky juices and the prepackaged fruits. When I arrived in said area, there they were! Not just one brand of Tofu, but a second kind as well, two sku’s of hard tofu. Then there was a few kinds of won ton wraps beside the tofu and that apparently made up the sum total of the “vegan” section. I couldn’t locate another definitely ‘vegan’ item in the entire rest of the store.
That was a few weeks ago. Just a few days ago I decided I had another urge to do a fly over the Walmart landscape to see what I might find for a poor hungry vegan. I did not come up empty handed! Just take a look below at what I found scrunched in beside the tofu and the won ton wraps this time. (they weren’t there earlier I swear!)
That’s right! By now 5-6 vegan items are inhabiting the produce section in our little town Walmart! So now I am filled with curiosity — what else could a vegan hope to find on the shelves of Walmart or perhaps, online? I jumped on the ole laptop at home and, once again, just look at what I found:
Well, I’ll be… I guess Walmart really has ‘turned the page’ – more like hundreds of them — now it looks like Walmart might have as many items they are classifying as “vegan” as they do candies, chips and soft drinks! (I jest of course, those sugary/dairy type items and sku’s number literally in the millions). But even with that vegan “1000+” search result, there is no food phenomenon in history that will ever compare to the tsunami of sugar/dairy/salt that Walmart has successfully ridden all the way to world domination and the extraction of trillions of consumer dollars.
But still one must take heart, and give gratitude for every step of progress, even if it takes you through a smelly Walmart parking lot. Hurray! that veganism (the reliance on healthy plant based foods and avoidance of all animal derived products) has finally made some entrance into the mainstream of many cultures, now even the United States. Let us hope that the growing vegan presence can help to push back that tsunami of sugar/meat/dairy and the obesity and disease they have wrought — and someday kick them the hell out of Walmart.
Now that would be progress.