Walmart (WMT) said on Monday it was teaming up with key suppliers like PepsiCo (PEP) and Campbell Soup (CPB) to raise money to fight hunger.
The retailer, which is a frequent target of activists who claim it does not pay its own workers adequately, said it would donate up to $3 million of its own money. Walmart’s participating suppliers, which also include General Mills, (GIS) Kellogg (K), and Kraft Heinz, will also donate 9 cents per qualifying item between March 28 and April 25. The proceeds will go to Feeding America, a hunger fighting organization.
“Successful partnerships are the key to making a positive impact on the issue of hunger in the U.S.,” Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart, said in a statement.
Walmart will start off with a $1.5 million donation and then match customers’ contributions to promote the campaign via social media, up to a total of $3 million. Though that is a drop in the bucket for a retailer with nearly $300 billion in annual sales in the U.S., the company says that all told, the effort could end up funding 75 million meals or so.
The news of the campaign comes as Walmart continues to be criticized by many, most famously by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who say it does not pay its 1.3 million workers enough. The company raised its lowest wage to $9 per hour last year and then again to $10 this year, for a $2.7 billion investment. But remains well below the $15 per hour labor advocates are calling for. Walmart famously made headlines in 2014 when a store in Oklahoma asked staff to donate food to co-workers. And by some analysts estimates, one Walmart customer in five relies on food stamps.
In recent years, Walmart and other grocers have also come under pressure to open stores in so-called food desert parts of the country, where people lack access to grocery stores and fresh produce and meats. By some estimates, some 23 million Americans live in food deserts.
As the top U.S. grocer, with $165 billion in annual sales, Walmart can only stand to benefit from being seen as a good corporate citizen when it comes to food and hunger.