JPNC accepts Whole Foods report

July 8, 2011
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The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s (JPNC) Ad Hoc Whole Foods Committee submitted its completed report on the potential impact of the grocery store’s planned move to Hyde Square to the neighborhood council June 28.

The report includes a number of proposals for a possible community benefits agreement with Whole Foods, including that Whole Foods should set up an affordable housing trust fund, that it should undertake a Hyde Square-area traffic study and that it should commit to a local hiring quota.

The JPNC voted unanimously to accept the report despite misgivings from council members about the contents.

“I want to thank everyone for their time,” JPNC Chair Andrea Howley said, talking about the volunteer members of the ad hoc committee and others who worked on compiling the report. “I do not know if I agree with everything in it.”

The report had only been made available to most council members and the media hours before the meeting, and the JPNC voted to accept it without having read it. Members voted instead to hold a special meeting July 12 to review the recommendations and decide on next steps.

Council members said they are hopeful that Whole Foods will agree to meet with the council following that meeting. “Whole Foods has expressed an interest in engaging us,” said Steve Laferriere, head of the ad hoc committee.

Whole Foods officials did not respond to Gazette requests for comment by press time.

The 69-page report makes a number of recommendations for a possible community benefits agreement with Whole Foods.

The recommendations include that Whole Foods should “create a fund to be used by credible local organizations for anti-displacement work, foreclosure prevention, tenants’ rights counseling and the creation and preservation of affordable housing.”

The report also suggests that Whole Foods should expand on its plans to provide a salad bar at JP’s Curley K-8 school and provide salad bars to all JP public schools.

It recommends that Whole Foods commit to participating in public food assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. It also recommends that Whole Foods support a locally run voucher program, called JP Bucks, that would provide subsidies for low-income families to shop at locally owned retail food outlets. That program would cost $10,000 a month, the report says.

It recommends that 75 percent of Whole Foods’ hires for the stores be local, that the stores employees reflect the racial, ethnic and linguistic make-up of Hyde Square.  It also suggests employees be paid a living wage, currently $13.01 an hour, according to the City of Boston website.

And it calls for Whole Foods to conduct a traffic study to access the potential impact of the new store on the Hyde Square area. The report recommends Whole Foods host a public meeting with a “professional mediator” to discuss the results of that study.

Laferriere thanked members of the Ad Hoc committee and others who participated in writing the report. He said 79 people participated in crafting the document, including through commenting on the JPNC website.

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