The Problem with Whole Foods

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Whole Foods Market is one of the great success stories of green innovation through out America. Whole Foods Market is one of the biggest grocery chains that primarily offers natural and organic products, though its success is due to primarily serving middle to upper class white people. Whole Foods Market’s recent openings in more racially and socioeconomically diverse communities such as Detroit, Harlem and Jamaica Plain, has raised the question, can Whole Foods Market bring healthy, nutritious foods to minority and under served markets?

Although Whole Foods Market’s expansion into lower income communities may seem like a noble move, this expansion has caused controversy among the residents of these areas. Residents are concerned about the high prices of Whole Foods Market’s products and gentrification of their neighborhoods. While Whole Foods Market would bring healthier food options to these neighborhoods, it would also shift the dynamics of the area by bringing in more up-scale retailers. This type of shift could increase the cost of rent, real estate and property taxes, making it impossible for the residents to thrive. Whole Foods Market also sells products that are typically more expensive than traditional grocery stores. Could the residents of these communities afford Whole Foods Market’s products? Would they spend money they could use for necessities on healthier food options?

Whole Foods Market is widely perceived as a high-cost store that caters to whites. It is unfortunate that communities of color typically aren’t expose to and given financial access to this store. For Whole Foods Market to successfully serve these communities, it will need to find a way to make its products more affordable to customers in these communities. It will also need to address concerns about ruining communities by bringing in other stores that are priced too high for the residents.

Although Whole Foods Market is causing controversy in it’s expansions, there are many good reasons as to why it should expand. African Americans are at higher risks for many life-threatening diseases that could be combated with a healthier diet. Fattening foods have been staples in African American diets since slavery. The tradition of eating ham hock, chitterlings, fatback, pigs feet, gizzards, hog maw, and neck bones started when black slaves were given their plantation owner’s left overs to eat. Years after slavery has ended, these traditions still exist. One reason that these traditions exist is because many areas where communities of color live are food deserts, areas with limited access to grocery stores that offer affordable healthy food options.

Not only does Whole Foods Market offer healthy food options to communities, but it also abides by a green mission. Whole Foods Market was the first major retailer to offset 100% of its energy use with wind energy. Whole Foods Market has a “3 R's” strategy it uses to help protect the environment: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. If Whole Foods can develop a strategy to make its products more accessible to lower income communities, through price and location, expansion could help save the health of many minorities and bring climate-friendly practices like wind energy and recycling to diverse communities nationwide.

Alexis Jackson is a student studying Creative Writing and Fine Arts at Vanderbilt University. You can reach her at and follow her @_alexisjacks.

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