Walmart and Sam’s Club’s Impact on the Charitable Food Experience

2nd Harvest staff holds a box of produce.
July 27, 2023

For nearly 20 years, Walmart, Sam’s Club and the Walmart Foundation have worked with Feeding America, local food banks, food pantries and meals programs to transform the charitable food experience. 

Walmart and Sam’s Club are two of Feeding America’s largest donors with more than $240 million in investments – nearly $160 million from the company and the Walmart Foundation and nearly $85 million from customers and members. Their donations of more than 7.5 billion pounds of fresh, nourishing food also make them our largest food donors and help people facing hunger in communities nationwide. 

“Together, Walmart and Sam’s Club are Feeding America’s largest food donation partners, but this is just one dimension of our longstanding relationship,” said Erika Thiem, Feeding America’s interim President and Chief Operating Officer. “Our teams have helped improve food security in the U.S by working together on approaches to food recovery and ensuring equitable access to food.”

As we celebrate the more than $20 million raised through this year’s Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign -- the annual in-store/club fundraising effort that’s helped provide over 1.8 billion meals so far for local food banks thanks to Walmart, Sam’s Club, suppliers, customers and members -- we also want to reflect on the key ways in which Walmart, the Walmart Foundation and Feeding America have teamed up to help end hunger in America.  

‘This is What We Need to Do’ - Successful Innovation 

Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank program director Carey Sealy saw alarmingly long lines forming outside the food bank during the height of the pandemic and quickly became enamored with the concept of online ordering for emergency food assistance, which she’d heard about during a Feeding America conference call. 

A volunteer stands by an Order Ahead sign with a shopping cart.

“I said, ‘this is perfect. This is what we need to do.’ I fell in love,” she said. 

With a re-grant as part of Walmart Foundation’s multi-year investment to develop, test and scale OrderAhead, the food bank embarked on a pilot program to test OrderAhead a grocery ordering platform that expands access to charitable food through a discreet and convenient click-and-collect system. 

Since its inception in October 2020, OrderAhead has served more than 41,000 households, distributed 4.5 million pounds of food and processed more than 140,000 orders across the country. 

In the Fredericksburg area, OrderAhead has only grown in prominence, with pickup locations stationed throughout the region, including refrigerated lockers outside an elementary school, a local YMCA, a rural community resource center and a low-income senior housing complex, where residents’ orders are picked up and delivered directly to residents by volunteers from the local Knights of Columbus chapter.

“You can’t meet somebody where they’re at any better than being where they’re already going,” Sealy said. “And this program removes barriers and stigma. When someone says they’re going to pick up groceries, it’s like picking them up anywhere else.”

Sealy said the future is bright for OrderAhead. The Walmart Foundation’s grant has helped grow the program, which currently serves about 3,000 households in the area.

In 2023, new grants from the Walmart Foundation will expand OrderAhead to eight more food banks and up to 50 partner agencies, boosting its use by 25 percent across the Feeding America network of more than 200 local food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.

As that platform continues to flourish across the network, the app that houses it - MealConnect - has taken root as the only tool of its kind on a national scale that safely matches local food banks, pantries and meal programs with grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses looking to donate surplus food.

Launched in 2014 with the Walmart Foundation as a founding funder, MealConnect has since recovered 5 billion pounds of food and is currently on pace to secure more than 1 billion meals annually.

In 2023, the app was updated with a refresh that includes new chat functionality between food banks, agencies and retailers, allowing real-time communication to decrease wait times for pickups and deliveries – a system successfully piloted in Walmart stores.

‘Space to Dream More’ - Equitable Access to Food

Second Harvest of the Big Bend, Inc. in Tallahassee, Florida serves about 86,000 people in a 16-county area consisting of the highest concentration of poverty in the state as well as communities of color and rural populations which are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity.

“There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach [to our service]. We have so much diversity in the types of towns and the types of people we see. It could be a farmer, it could be a business person,” said Libby Simmons, the food bank’s director of development.

Simmons said the food bank in recent years has taken a hard look at the racial disparities surrounding food insecurity, a move that’s led to a shift in perspectives on how they approach partnerships. 

What used to be a transactional relationship of simply supplying food to pantries and meal programs has evolved into something more meaningful. Now, those smaller agencies take the lead on advocating for ways to apply grant funding and resources to their communities.

“Agencies are taking this, running with it and absolutely loving it,” Simmons said. 

The latest round of Retail Agency Capacity grant funding from the Walmart Foundation has allowed food pantries and meal programs to buy “coolbot” devices, which turn rooms into walk-in coolers without the big expense - a particularly attractive solution to storing fresh fruits and vegetables supplied from the area’s nearby fertile farms. 

Some agencies have used the grant funding to buy pallet jacks outfitted with electronic scales, saving valuable time at pickups and deliveries. Others have used the funding to simply buy extra shelving to accommodate more food.

“A lot of times, the money isn’t funding the most exciting things but for some of our agencies, getting new shelves or pallet jacks really is pretty exciting,” Simmons said. “With the funding, it gives us all some focus on how we can do more, it gives us space to dream more about what we want to do.”  

‘Very Vital’ Increased Access 

To build and ensure sustainable capacity in local communities, Walmart Foundation has funded more than 200 vehicles to help with local food rescue efforts, invested in critical research to identify opportunities to capture more surplus food and provided millions of dollars in grants to build infrastructure to more equitably serve neighbors in need. This funding also supports our continued efforts to connect neighbors to important resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through member food banks.

Investments in new infrastructure have enabled coordinated pickups and deliveries which result in stocked shelves at places like the Broken Wings pantry in Farmerville, Louisiana, a partner agency of Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana 

A woman stands in front of a truck with pallets of canned goods.

Pantry director Liz Delcambre said the donations are “very vital” to Union Parish, where an estimated 20 percent of people live in poverty. 

“The folks around here, sometimes they don’t have enough money to get food. One flat tire, one child gets sick, it’s a burden, a setback,” she said. 

In addition to the organization’s monthly drive-through food pantry, Broken Wings has added twice-weekly “walk-in market” pickups thanks to robust food donations from the nearby Walmart store. 

Now, Delcambre said up to 100 families come through the pantry on each market day, grabbing fresh produce, bread and frozen meat from the shelves.  

“When I came here 15 years ago, there were no other food pantries here in Union Parish. A couple churches had little cupboards and things like that, but since we have started to partner with the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana, it’s been very vital for the Parish,” she said.

Looking Ahead

We want to recognize how far we’ve come in the movement to end hunger while also acknowledging all the work that remains. With Walmart, Sam’s Club and the Walmart Foundation’s support, we’ve tested and expanded solutions at food banks and pantries that help get fresh food to our neighbors in need. Our success is all thanks to the feedback we receive from the people we serve and from our partners.

On the horizon are continued innovations, program expansions and community partnerships, all of it geared toward reaching more people, strengthening communities and creating lasting impact in the movement to end hunger.

Join the movement to end hunger at Feeding America’s website. To learn more about the Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s philanthropic work, visit