Feeding the problem
EDITOR: Wal-Mart's senior director of communications, Steven Restivo, expressed concern that more than 23 million Americans live in "food deserts" ("Wal-Mart responds," Letters, Monday). Wal-Mart's solution is to provide healthy, affordable food choices to people in "food desert" neighborhoods working for low wages with little/no benefits.
Let's examine this problem of food deserts more closely. Food deserts exist where there are large numbers of low-income people with high demand for low prices. This just happens to be Wal-Mart's customer base. Its business model relies on low incomes and high demand for low prices, with grocery prices made artificially cheap with heavy subsidization of the agri-business industry. If our vision for this demographic is continued reliance on Wal-Mart's taxpayer-subsidized low prices, then Wal-Mart's solution makes sense.
However, Wal-Mart's solution does not support a vision for increasing earnings and standards of living for those living in food desert neighborhoods. Wal-Mart's business model depresses wages and benefits for retail employees and reduces the total number of retail jobs. Conversely, communities with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses show greater income growth.
So Wal-Mart's solution would perpetuate the causes of food deserts.
EDITOR: Thank you to Staff Writer Brett Wilkison for letting Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin's constituents know that she was in Hawaii on Valentine's Day ("Weddings a new service," Friday). Just what county business was Gorin conducting? It's hard to believe that after only six weeks on the job as our new 1st District supervisor, Gorin is already taking a vacation. But then again, what would you expect from somebody who hasn't held a job in the private sector since 1988?