Letters to the editor, February 2003
This article was originally published in February 2003
Cash for the Hungry
As we approach the end of 2002, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to your members and staff for their support of our Food Bank Program. Every month PCC Seward Park donates over a thousand pounds of food to our program. And through the bulk-packaging program, Cash for the Hungry, we get additional thousands of pounds of bulk food every other month.
As we all know, numbers of people in need in our community have been on the rise. It is reassuring that those in the PCC community are available and interested in supporting our program and others serving those in greatest need in our community. Thank you very much for the food donations and for your ongoing support.
— Carol Mullin, Jewish Family Service
Member Bonus Days
As someone who complained about the one-day-a-month member shopping day, let me thank you for the additional day on the 16th of each month. I hope it makes things a little less stressful for the store staffs, because it is surely nicer for me to know that I will not be punished because I was ill, or out of town, or just plain forgetful on the 15th. Also, the additional day means there might actually be room near the store to park. Good work.
— Sandra Lane (shopper since 1971)
Thank you for the idea of member appreciation days. It seems you now have two days per month because of the positive response. Here is an additional thought/suggestion to accommodate members who are able to shop only on weekends (like me) because of weekday work or other commitments. Why not place one of the member appreciation days on a weekend day (regularly) like the 3rd Saturday? Thanks!
— Beth Cordova, Issaquah
My husband and I have been members of PCC since 1976. In all those years, I have appreciated having a place where I could easily purchase organic foods. I’m certain our health has benefited because of PCC’s existence.
While I think that the 10 percent day is a good idea, I think it would be even better if, included in the monthly member coupons, there could be a one-day coupon of a 10 percent grocery bill reduction for a day of the member’s own choosing. Not everyone gets paid the 1st or 15th of each month. Our family paychecks arrive the 8th and 23rd. We could try to adjust our grocery-shopping schedule, but it wouldn’t be easy. I would bet that most people pay their bills and buy groceries right after payday. Then they can see how much is left to get through the next two weeks.
I would love to get a response from you. Once again, thanks for being a wonderful place to shop.
— Elizabeth Kryger, Carnation
Laurie Lombard, Director of Marketing replies: As you can see, requests for benefits are as individual as each member. Although we’d like to honor each and every preference, we have to keep in mind what’s affordable and do-able. This past year, our co-op gave back to members $520,000 from our 10 percent off days, plus $64,000 in coupon values. We hope that adding the 16th will allow more flexibility that members desire, but I appreciate the role of pay cycles and household budgets. A coupon system sounds clean, but our current registers can’t manage what you describe. We are now evaluating new register systems. For now, if you know you’re going to be out of town on the discount days, talk with your store manager to make a one-time special arrangement.
Thank you so much for your article “What Is A Co-op” in the October issue of Sound Consumer. Reading your article helped to clarify many of the reasons I am an active member (and have been for 14 years). I am so grateful to live in our area where we have such a diverse and abundant supply of organic products. Our co-op has provided my education regarding the value of supplying, purchasing, and consuming organics since I moved to Seattle in 1987. In reviewing PCC co-op highlights in the aforementioned article, I again am filled with gratitude and respect for these many different effective influences we have generated. Keep up the commitment to health for us as individuals and for us as a city, state, country and planet!
However, I am concerned by the appearance of “traditional,” non-organic items on our shelves and in our freezers, seemingly at the expense of the removal of organic selections due to profit and/or limited space concerns? I am disappointed to be selling Starbucks, Häagen Dazs and other ice creams that are not only conventional, but do not even promise that they are not using Bovine Growth Hormone dairy. By carrying these products we are giving a very mixed message. It also increases my fear of what other products may begin to show up on the shelves, such as conventionally raised meat, non-organic tofu products or others?
Our CEO, Tracy Wolpert, and his staff have done a remarkable job of turning PCC around financially and I deeply appreciate everyone’s diligent efforts in that respect. I want PCC to stay fiscally viable because I depend on you for my shopping. However, I am concerned by what seems to be a more profit/fiscal driven theme instead of “PCC’s Board, management and staff take seriously our role as gatekeepers, for all our members and other shoppers.”
— (name withheld)
Regarding the ice cream/rBGH issue, Stephanie Steiner, Grocery Merchandiser replies:
Conventional brands of ice cream were added to the product mix because many shoppers were asking for more choices in flavors beyond the basics. The organic ice cream industry just hasn’t caught up yet with the demand for more extravagant flavors. It took years for the organic coffee industry to mature, also the cookie category. Until organic ice cream catches up, the purchase patterns of our shoppers support the choices among conventional brands far more than organic choices. Of 76,183 units of ice cream sold in 2001, only 18 percent — 13,465 units — were organic, the rest were conventional. Among the top 50 best-selling flavors, only eight are organic and seven of those (Julie’s) are still on our shelves.
In addition, Double Rainbow is in the process of getting suppliers to sign off on no hormones. They say they’re 95 percent of the way there. They will contact us as soon as it’s 100 percent. We also have just updated our signage on rBGH for our dairy and ice cream sets so customers may be better informed of their choices.
Like many other PCC shoppers, I am often on the run and frequently buy deli items for my meals. I realized that based on PCC’s commitment to organics, I had assumed that the deli used organic ingredients in its salads and juice bar. Realizing that I was operating under an assumption, I began to ask. Upon asking, I was informed that:
- The organic list is usually limited to the squash, potatoes, carrots, beets and tofu. (They are not using organic olive oil.)
- The edamame salad’s main ingredient is soybeans. I was sure that they would be organic, but was told that they are not because an outside vendor makes that salad. I suggest that PCC can require the vendor to use organic soybeans because we know that soybeans are one of the three most genetically engineered foods.
- The broccoli is not organic even though only organic broccoli is carried in the produce section. PCC delis make a separate order for non-organic broccoli.
- Many items at the Issaquah juice bar are not organic: celery (in the top 12 most pesticided foods), fennel, broccoli, spinach, cucumber, lemon, tomatoes, peppers, grapes and cantaloupe. Again, separate orders are required for some of these because only organic is carried in the produce section.
This information raises several issues. First is that of “truthful labeling.” As a PCC consumer, I would like to be informed as to which items in the deli and juice bar are organic by (posting it) on the ingredient list. I can understand if all the ingredients in each salad are not organic, but I think that we can begin with the main ingredients.
Second is the challenge of staying fiscally responsible. I am willing to pay more for organic both in the deli and the juice bar.
I realize that keeping a business financially viable is a huge challenge and that PCC’s challenge is increased by our co-op standards. Since 1961, PCC has done many extraordinary things for the common interest of our business. I am asking that you continue to do so by making changes that are in line with our standards.
Thank you for your time in reading my lengthy letter. These issues are dear to my heart, our community, and to our planet.
— Lemoine Radford, Samammish
Regarding deli issues, the delis reply:
While it’s true that our delis have not always done a good job of communicating which items are organic, the list is long and includes an estimated 250 ingredients. You’re correct that our delis do not use organic olive oil, but we use only organic coffee and dairy in our espresso bar, we stock organic dried fruit, nuts and some cheese, and use organic flours and grains as well as tofu, some vegetables and fruits. We are working to make the ingredients more consistent from store to store, which will allow us to standardize labeling and let customers know which ingredients are organic.
We’re working with the maker of the edamame salad to see if we can find a supplier for commercial sized packages (extra extra large!) organic soybeans. The smaller packages are very costly and inefficient. As far as organic broccoli, celery, et al, we agree with your suggestion that the top 12 foods grown with the most pesticides should be organic. We’re now moving in that direction.