Friday, April 13, 2007

Opinion: Whole Foods, we are not

All right, I'll admit it. I have a bumper sticker fetish. I am always interested in the way a bumper sticker can sum up a position in a few well-chosen words. In a word, they're simple. Last week I had an experience that found me writing a bumper sticker that I'll one day create.

I was traveling home from my visiting my parents in Green Bay, WI. I hit the north suburbs of Chicago about noon Central time (one o'clock, to my stomach) and the apple and gorp I had eaten a few hours earlier had worn off. I decided that I would hop off the Edens Expressway close to where my wife and I had gone to college. I knew there would be a few of the usual fast-food options, Mc D's, Subway, Starbucks (none of which appealed). Then I recalled that my family had mentioned that Whole Foods had just opened a new store in the neighborhood. Lo and behold, there it was right on the corner at the end of the exit ramp. I figured it would be a good opportunity to grab a healthier sandwich -- and check out the mainstream health food scene (I've sometimes described my favorite co-op as a miniature Whole Foods or what we are trying to establish as similar to Whole Foods).

I wasn't prepared for what I was about to enter. I hadn't been in a Whole Foods since we moved from Chicago about ten years ago. It was sensory overload to the extreme. Granted, it was beautiful. Black shelving and lots of stained wood trim, with stainless steel accents. Hand-lettered signs above beautiful produce. Any amazing natural product that you could imagine. After several minutes of weaving through the aisles looking for a simple sandwich (there were multiple deli/grill areas, each with its own specialty), I was headed to the checkout with a $6.49 sandwich, of which a half portion would have been plenty.

While I waited at the checkout (where I could peruse the latest in thick, glossy "green" magazines or CDs from several top alternative music artists), I watched a thirty-something couple check out in front of me. They had a basic assortment of 15-20 items, certainly not a week's worth of groceries or stocking up on kitchen staples. The total for their two or three bags of groceries (after a coupon for a free dozen organic eggs) came to $96.

While I watched the guy swipe his credit card, I almost found myself getting angry. And I wrote my next bumper sticker:

Healthy food is a right, not a privilege.

Maybe that is why I am so committed to starting a storefront food co-op. I see it as a way for folks to get the healthiest of food at the lowest cost. I see it as a way for us to connect to our food in the most direct way possible, without all of the in between transportation or packaging. I see it as one way to solve many of the problems that are ailing our society.

So I'll keep on working to make this vision a reality.

And I'll stop describing a storefront food co-op as a miniature Whole Foods.

Monday, April 9, 2007


As you've seen from our meeting minutes, online resources are a huge help to us as we move towards our goal of establishing a storefront food co-op. To make it easier for all us to access those resources, you'll notice a new column on the right entitled "Links we've referenced." It links to the co-op's account with the tagged links we've referenced. Feel free to share any other links that you think would be helpful.