JPNC chair: Whole Foods deal still possible; agreement to be public

September 12, 2011
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The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) did not directly ask Whole Foods Market to sign a community benefits agreement in a recent meeting, and a deal is still possible, JPNC chair Andrea Howley told the Gazette.

“If we creatively redesign it, we might be able to get it [signed],” Howley said. “The door’s definitely open now.”

The text of that formerly secret “good neighbor agreement” soon will be published on the JPNC’s website at jpnc.org, she added. That document is about two pages and is similar to the JPNC’s previously publicized Whole Foods ad hoc committee report, she said.

Whole Foods officials have not commented to the Gazette directly about the Sept. 7 meeting with the JPNC.

A previous statement from the JPNC’s “Negotiating Team,” which includes Howley, about the good neighbor agreement said that Whole Foods is “unwilling…at this time” to sign a formal agreement. It also said no further meetings are planned.

But the JPNC did not directly ask Whole Foods to sign anything, and Whole Foods did not directly say no, Howley told the Gazette. She said that certain requests “made it unsignable” because they addressed practices that Whole Foods never does as a company. She declined to specify those requests on the record.

Howley said the meeting lasted over two hours and included lots of discussion about Whole Foods’ practices of corporate donations and community outreach. Whole Foods was given the good neighbor agreement two days before the meeting, she said.

While no further direct meetings were discussed, Howley said, there is still opportunity for phone conversations and other contacts.

“The door’s not closed. They left the door open,” Howley said of Whole Foods.

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