Thinking Outside the Big Box: Food Access, Labor, Landuse, and the Wal-Mart Way
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In just four decades, the Wal-Mart Company has transformed the retail sector, infl uenced the way we shop and work and shaped the nation’s rural, suburban and urban communities. Now Wal-Mart Supercenters, vast stores that house full-scale grocery stores within their walls, are beginning to affect the food system. After summarizing Wal-Mart’s labor and land use impacts, this working paper addresses an issue that has received less attention: the implications of the Supercenter model of food retailing on food access. The paper includes an examination of such issues as food selection, pricing and store accessibility, based on a case study of the fi rst Supercenter to open in California (in La Quinta, near Palm Springs). The paper also summarizes recent debates over the possible entry of Supercenters into three jurisdictions in Los Angeles County: the cities of Inglewood, Los Angeles and Rosemead. Big box ordinances are discussed as potentially valuable policy tools for regulating the entry of large retail outlets. The paper concludes with a policy recommendations section that details ways in which planners, policy makers, and communities can integrate large food retail stores into a smart growth and food justice approach to development. Pricing information comparing the La Quinta Supercenter with two neighboring grocery stores is included in an appendix.