A tip of the hat to the organic supermarket chain Whole Foods Market, which recently took a big step towards supporting the local food movement.
It started when food journalist extraordinaire Michael Pollan, who I greatly admire (or is that whom?), recently took Whole Foods to task for supporting what he calls the “industrial organic” movement. Pollan suggested that Whole Foods was hurting local farmers and should do more to support the local food movement. Needless to say, Whole Foods was pissed and their founder & CEO John Mackey exchanged some indignant emails with Pollan. You can read about that here at the Gristmill Blog.
Mackey claimed that Whole Foods did support the local food movement. But he may have realized that there was at least a grain of truth to what Pollan was saying, because he recently announced (in a public letter to Pollan) a whole bunch of new initiatives that Whole Foods will be focusing on. You can read more about this at Gristmill, but here’s the summary. Mackey announced that Whole Foods:
- Hired its first “animal compassionate field buyer,” who is going to work on “developing sources of animal products that meet our new strict animal compassionate standards.”
- Is changing the job responsibilities of its regional buyers “to focus more on sourcing local products for their stores.”
- Will annually set aside $10 million to “promote local agriculture (especially animal agriculture) wherever we have stores through long-term loans at low rates of interest.”
- Will close off “major sections of the parking lots on Sunday to provide a place for local farmers to sell their products directly to customers” at standalone stores where the parking lots are not shared with other stores.
- Made regional and store marketing teams responsible “for communicating and educating our customers about locally produced products.”
Well, that last point just means that they think they need to market their support of local foods better, but all the rest sound really good. As Grist blogger David Roberts writes:
This, along with the rest of the letter, presents a convincing case that Whole Foods is not some money-hungry corporation simply out to capitalize on the excitement over organic food. The folks there seem genuinely invested in doing good, building up local foodsheds and improving the execrable treatment of animals common in the U.S. food system today.
Good. Thank you Whole Foods! Now, Whole Foods shoppers should hold the chain responsible for putting its money where its mouth is and really sticking with these initiatives. It’ll be great to see even more local food and in Whole Foods stores and not just organic products produced at “industrial organic” farms. And to see that they are willing to financially support the local food movement as well…now that’s something.