Whole Foods will not create fund

Whole Foods Market will not agree to set up a “fund for use by JP community groups,” a main request of a Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) committee trying to negotiate a “good neighbor agreement” with the supermarket.

Whole Foods described the request as one that “has never been made by any other retailer joining JP,” and said that, “Creating a fund for a specific community is not how we do business, nor have we ever found it necessary given our history of community involvement. Our outlook at this time has not changed, and we are now focusing 100 percent of our energy on opening our new store in Jamaica Plain.”

The JPNC committee submitted the proposed agreement to Whole Foods at a Sept. 7 meeting with Whole Foods executives. It called for the fund to support anti-displacement work; assisting locally-owned businesses; youth training and development; food assistance for low-income families; and workforce development and small business training programs.

The creation of the fund was strongly supported by the group Whose Foods? Whose Community? The Coalition for a Diverse and Affordable JP. Prior to Whole Foods’ rejection of the idea, Whose Foods issued a statement calling on Whole Foods to sign an agreement that included the fund.

“They just think a salad bar and a pathetic ‘5 percent day’ is enough,” Whose Foods spokesperson Martha Rodriguez said at the time—referring to Whole Foods’ donation of a salad bar to the local Curley School’s cafeteria, and the company’s practice of donating 5 percent of profits from local stores to charities on designated days.

Rodriguez declined to comment following Whole Foods rejection of the fund idea.

JPNC chair Andrea Howley, who is on the negotiating committee, told the Gazette that the JPNC is waiting to hear back from Whole Foods on the other items it requested in the proposed agreement. Those include salad bars in other JP schools; employment opportunities for local youths; that 75 percent of the staff at the store be from JP and that Whole Foods pay a living wage; that the supermarket share its parking lot with local businesses; and that the supermarket completes and follows up on a traffic study for the new Hyde Square store.

Whole Foods has already agreed to conduct the traffic study. Whole Foods spokesperson Heather McCready did not respond to Gazette questions about whether Whole Foods would honor any of the other requests or sign any agreement.

Howley said that it is unlikely the negotiating committee will meet with Whole Foods again face-to-face, but that there may still be communication between he committee and the supermarket.

McCready said Whole Foods does not yet have a firm opening date for its new store at 415 Centre St., but that it still plans to open “in the late fall.”

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