Letters to the editor, August 2004

This article was originally published in August 2004

Kirkland remodel

We’ve been shopping at PCC Kirkland for many years now and appreciate the cozy, human character of the store. I’m familiar with the staff and the layout, not to mention the reflection of our basic values — healthy food, social responsibility. What we eat and its impact on the earth is important to us.

But what happened? Whole Foods is coming to Bellevue. The competition reacts: Larry’s reset and repainted its Bellevue store. PCC reset and remodeled the Kirkland store.

I find, however, that I actually buy less because I can’t find what I’m looking for, or the kids can’t take another round through the store in search of something. For example, bread is now in two different sections of the store — sliced bread is in the baking goods section, while the more expensive and showy “artisan” (unsliced) bread is on fancy racks. With the entire store rearranged, shopping at PCC has become a time-consuming scavenger hunt.

I’m also concerned that the makeover leaves some of the co-op’s values behind. Something as simple as being able to buy Parmesan cheese in bulk, reusing a container, has disappeared. The new containers cannot be reused — the heat of the dishwasher melts them — creating more waste. The deli no longer has tables and chairs — only barstools, which are far too dangerous for small children to sit on. Normal basic foods are being squeezed out by new deli cases and freezers bursting with prepared meals ready to go, and labels boasting low carbs.
— Caitilin Walsh

Paul Schmidt, director of merchandising: I’m sorry to hear that you’re disappointed with Kirkland’s reset. While we respect your point of view on the reason we made changes, it had very little to do with Whole Foods. We’re doing similar “face lifts” at a number of stores as it’s a necessary part of maintenance. We’ve received numerous positive responses!

As for the reset, we needed to add additional frozen food space, as this category is growing at every one of our stores and Kirkland was way under spaced. We tried to update our selection based on the needs of that particular store. To make this happen, we did have to move most of the sections so there was the right amount of room throughout the store for all categories. The area that was most affected by discontinued items was the mercantile department, which has one of the biggest declining sections in our store. Unfortunately, to do this required moving products around.

The merchandisers make their decisions based on the purchasing habits of our members and other customers, keeping in mind what our values are. This is a very difficult process, as discontinuing space for a slow mover always will cause a few customers grief. But if we don’t bring in the new products that are being requested, we chase away other members. We try our best to make the right decisions.

You should still be able to buy Parmesan in bulk, as this was not discontinued. I’ll look into the issue with the bulk cheese and containers. I will also investigate the seating situation.

I want to assure you that this mini remodel in no way affects PCC’s values. While we’re always looking for new customers, our current customers are already coming to PCC for the food. It’s our goal to continue to offer the products that the majority of our members/customers want, while maintaining the values and goals set by PCC.

Low carb diets

The lead article in the June issue of the PCC Consumer (“The Skinny on Low Carb Diets”) is a terrible diatribe. It is true that many people who are trying a low carb diet without knowing anything much about nutrition are eating an unbalanced diet with too little vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, Lovejoy tries to make that her argument against low carb diets.

For years Dr. Atkins ran up against the dinosaurs of the dietetic and medical professions who said the same thing — that it is unhealthy to eat so much protein and fat. But they never read his books or looked at his suggested menus, which always included high amounts of vegetables and fruits and reasonable amounts of fats and protein.

To suggest that low fat is the best way to eat is based on flawed research; much of it now discredited. Most alternative natural nutrition people believe that, for example, dairy products should be full fat and butter is good — not dangerous. Dr. Atkins carefully distinguished between fats high in essential fatty acids and others that are highly refined or contain unhealthy transfats.

It’s a shame that conventional dietetians are so enraged about low carb ideas that they’ll do anything to muddy the waters. They have been saying “low fat, low fat” so long they think it’s holy. Unfortunately, it is true that commercial interests are now promoting low carb products, which are nothing more than a scam.
— Elaine V. Stannard

Article writer Jennifer Lovejoy, Ph.D., replies: I regret that your member considered my article a “diatribe” or attack against any particular diet book author, as that was not the intent. As a research scientist (I am not a clinical nutritionist), my task is to evaluate the published scientific data about diet composition and see where the majority of the credible studies fall.

In this case, there is a large body of well-conducted research (i.e. carefully done placebo-controlled trials and/or population-based studies) to support the recommendations of a diet high in complex carbohydates, vegetables and fruits and low in fat for long-term optimal health.

There are two important points readers should note, however. The first is that excess body weight per se, far and above any diet composition factors, has such an adverse effect on health that anyone who is overweight should seek to reduce calories and increase physical activity by whatever means works for them. For some people, weight loss on a low-carb diet is easier than using a low-fat diet and, in that case, they should not hesitate to use whatever is effective at getting the weight off and keeping it off.

Secondly, your reader makes a good point about essential fatty acids. It is true that certain fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids from fish, have important health benefits and are associated with reduced risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

It is very easy in practice, however, to assure that one gets enough of these fatty acids on a low-fat diet (i.e. a 20 to 25 percent fat diet as has been studied in most of the scientific research) simply by swapping out unhealthy (saturated or animal) fats for healthier fats.

Also in this issue