Whole Foods ready for feedback

Will host farmers market

After sitting out months of intense community discussion about the implications of its impending move to Jamaica Plain, Whole Foods plans to spend a half-hour on community comments at a “Town Hall” meeting June 2. The meeting is scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Curley School at 493 Centre St.

?The market also has a new email address that local residents can use to make product suggestions for the new store: [email protected].

The meeting plan and email address were announced in a May 16 open letter from Whole Foods North Atlantic Regional Vice President Laura Derba, a copy of which was emailed to the Gazette.

Derba also says Whole Foods is planning this summer to host farmers markets in the parking lot of the future store at 415 Centre St. Once the store opens this fall “we will also try to support these local producers and many others by carrying as many local products as we can,” she said.

And Whole Foods is planning to donate a salad bar to the Curley K-8 School to “help encourage healthier lunch options through access to fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.”

Whole Foods spokesperson Heather McCready told the Gazette the details of the farmers market and salad bar plans have not yet been worked out. They will be described in more detail at the June 2 meeting, she said.

The leadership at the new Whole Foods will include Store Team Leader Mike Walker and Associate Store Team Leader Wanda Hernandez. Derba’s letter describes them both as having “ties to the Jamaica Plain area.” McCready told the Gazette they are both former JP residents.

Whole Foods’ long-awaited, hour-and-a-half-long “Town Hall” meeting will largely be devoted to “formally introducing ourselves and our store leadership team as well as presenting our plans for the store. There will also be a 30-minute Q&A period that will give community members an opportunity to ask questions about the store, as well as [make] suggestions…,” Derba said in the letter.

McCready told the Gazette that the meeting agenda is flexible. There is a chance that more time could be devoted to questions and comments, and the meeting could run longer if Whole Foods does not get kicked out of the school right at 8:30 p.m.

She said Whole Foods’ presentation would focus on “taking a comprehensive look at our entire plan, who we are as a company and what we are bringing to the community.”

McCready could not say if that presentation would include responses to issues raised by community members in recent months. Inspired by concerns that Whole Foods’ move to the neighborhood is a sign of gentrification, some have suggested the company could set up a trust fund to support local affordable housing development. Others have expressed concerns about traffic and parking issues in Hyde Square and asked Whole Foods to commit to specific local hiring goals.

Whole Foods plans to hire about 100 people. “We…hope that many of them will be from the local JP community,” Derba says in the letter.

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