Recently Marketplace ran a story on a new USDA-funded program: “Amazon, Walmart now offering grocery delivery to SNAP recipients.”
Although I appreciate that the Marketplace segment covered some of the problems with this program—including that many communities of color and low-income communities don’t have access to the internet, and people will have to pay delivery charges—our own focus groups found that most people didn’t have email addresses and many were not interested in buying produce online. Like me, many preferred to touch the fruit before purchasing it. Is it ripe? Can I smell it? Why would those living in impacted communities be any different?
But there are bigger issues here:
The money is going right back to these large corporations that don’t even pay all of their employees living wages.
The money is going back to these larger corporations instead of the money staying in the community.
The government is essentially giving money to incredibly wealthy corporations that are predominately run by white-led boards, yet those who are the most impacted tend to be black and brown.
And that is the key, right? These types of programs reinforce the notion that corporations are here to help us instead of recognizing that these corporations are only interested in making money and that communities have power, knowledge, and, more importantly, they have solutions for the problems they face.
Instead of that money going to Amazon and Walmart, it would have been MUCH better for that money to be used to help set up worker-owned cooperatives for the people in those communities, like the Mandela Grocery Coop in Oakland. Solutions need to be led by those who are there to serve the best interests of the community, by those who provide healthy foods, and by those who create jobs and wealth for community members and for their family, friends, and neighbors.
I feel it is also important to keep in mind that corporations like Safeway and Walmart have placed restrictive deeds on their former properties preventing other grocery stores from moving in, leaving entire communities without a grocery store.
I could go on about that money being better spent for land and seeds for people to grow their own foods or to pay ALL federal workers a living wage.
But the hypocrisy of relying on these corporations to empower communities doesn’t even come close to a long-term solution.
Again, who would you trust in your community: one of those corporations or the people who live there?