Letters to the editor
This article was originally published in October 2019
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Field Day Organics
It seems like this year the Field Day Organics product line has suddenly exploded. During my last shopping PCC trip I noticed there are Field Day soups, crackers, popcorn, sugar, maple syrup, cereals, dishwashing soap, canned beans, packaged pasta, olive oil, tomato sauce, napkins, toilet paper, tissues and sparking water, and I probably missed a few others. Are they owned by a giant company like Hain or Kellogg? Otherwise, where does the money come from to make such a giant expansion of their product line?
— Tim Greyhavens, Seattle
PCC replies: Thank you for writing and for your observations on organic Field Day products.
The Field Day brand is owned by United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), a major organic and natural foods distributor. UNFI contracts with manufacturers to produce what it wants, without owning or operating the manufacturing facilities themselves. The decreased manufacturing costs from this setup are passed on to our shoppers through lower prices. Field Day is on the shelves at co-op grocers across the country and is a good option for customers who want budget-friendly and high-quality certified organic and “made with organic” foods. The company’s latest sustainability report is online at unfi.com.
PCC is committed to continuing support for small and midsize brands while also offering choices that make certified organic and “made with organic” food choices more affordable for all. We aim to offer the best variety of choices for shoppers to consider as we work toward our five-year goal of adding 1,000 new organic products to our shelves.
No pets in markets
I have seen dogs brought into PCC Markets several times recently. While it is possible that at least some of these were true service animals and thus legal and protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I doubt that this was true in all of the cases.
As someone with severe allergies to animals, I have to immediately leave an indoor space if there is an animal there. While I respect the right for service animals to be brought into stores and can honor that I need to leave in such cases, I take issue with being driven out of a store due to my health reasons because someone illegally brought their pet or emotional support animal into a store.
Additionally, it seems extremely unhygienic to allow pets in grocery stores.
I would appreciate PCC adding clear signage outside of the store that only service animals may be brought into the store, and that pets and emotional support animals may not be.
I have noticed that PCC employees seem to pretend not to notice when dogs are in the store.
I would very much appreciate PCC employees being trained on how to legally deal with dogs in stores to enable only true service animals inside and to keep pets and emotional support animals out, for the sake of those with allergies and for the hygiene of your stores.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this issue and any measures you take.
— Brad Mewhort
PCC replies: Thank you for writing about your experiences with PCC and animals, and for the information you provided. As you clearly laid out, even under the best circumstances this can be a difficult issue, and it can be enormously frustrating. We have some answers that I hope will be encouraging.
First, all PCC storefronts are signed that service animals are welcome and that pets are not allowed. Please let us know if there are any stores where you don’t see these signs.
We understand that your allergies require you to leave the store if an animal is present and appreciate that this creates a conflict between two people’s needs.
The quandary is that by law, we are only allowed to ask two questions of a customer bringing an animal into our stores: (1) if the animal is a service animal, and (2) what tasks the animal is trained to perform. We must accept the customer’s answers as true. There is no documentation or certification that an owner is required to carry to prove that an animal is indeed a service animal, and once the customer confirms that it is a service animal, any further challenge of the animal’s status could be seen as discriminatory behavior.
A further complication is added by emotional support animals, or ESAs, which are animals recommended by a mental health professional to provide emotional support. While ESAs aren’t trained to perform specific tasks and are not considered service animals under Washington law, some federal agencies have acknowledged the right to bring ESAs into some places of public accommodation, like airplanes and “no pet” housing, and allowing an ESA in some circumstances could be a required accommodation under the ADA.
All of our PICs (Persons in Charge) are trained to ask whether dogs in stores are service animals, if this information is not obvious on sight.
Even though we cannot prohibit an animal from a store if the customer confirms that it is a service animal, if a dog is behaving in a way that’s unhygienic or that imposes on other customers, such as sniffing food or jumping on people, we will ask the owner to remove the dog notwithstanding that it is a service animal. This practice is meant to address inappropriate behavior while staying in both the letter and spirit of the law. We encourage shoppers to tell our managers if they see problematic behavior.
Bottled water display
One issue that I know has your and many members’ attention is single-use plastic containers. I was therefore beyond shocked to see the entire cooling case across from the bulk items area in your Fremont store full of bottled water—at the bargain price of $1.09 no less. I can understand PCC’s decision to stock bottled water (kind of) but to promote it in such a huge display seems so contrary to PCC’s and the membership’s values. What good does it do to eliminate single-use containers from the deli while promoting single-use bottled water in this way? As I’m sure you’re well aware, it takes more water to make the plastic bottle than the bottle can hold—while the bottled water industry continues to have support—even from “environmentally conscious” stores like PCC, other parts of our world are experiencing drought, including (to a lesser degree than many areas) Washington state. Also, research shows that elements of plastic food and drink containers leach into their contents, and exposure to plastics is an increasing health concern, especially for the young. Sadly, bottled water is available almost anywhere—why undermine the high standards you adhere to in other areas of the store with a product that is so very bad in so many ways?
— Jane D. Saxton, Seattle
PCC replies: Thank you for writing and for your concern about the bottled water display in our Fremont store. We do share your concerns about the environmental impact of single-use plastic containers and appreciate you raising the issue. PCC stopped regularly stocking single-serving bottles of water several years ago, spurred by member and board collaboration. We do carry larger bottles of water, and the display you referenced was created for the Solstice parade, as glass bottles are discouraged on the parade route, and many customers come in looking for cold water to carry with them that day.
We forwarded your concerns to our merchandisers, who replaced the water bottles in the display with other drinks. They are planning to feature boxed water rather than bottled for next year’s parade sales. Thank you for helping us be more mindful of the broader effects of our displays.
Recycling meat trays
Thank you for how rigorous you are and have been about quality and responsible foods and other products. I respect your commitment to healthy bodies and our earth.
I am having a difficult time recycling the pink meat trays. I live in a condo and we have no yard waste bins to put the clean, dry used trays into.
Wouldn’t it be possible to recycle these at our PCC stores, much like we did the plastic bags once upon a time?
I have been a member since the late 1980s and shop once or twice a month, mostly for healthy proteins.
Thank you again for all you do.
— Chi Stewart, Kirkland
PCC replies: Thank you for your kind words, your long membership, and your commitment to properly dispose of compostable packaging. We appreciate the efforts you’ve been making to find a responsible solution for the meat trays—the job is a lot harder when you don’t have a residential yard waste pickup.
Unfortunately, while PCC does compost and recycle all that we can as a retailer, our stores at this time do not accept residential waste, recycling or composting. However, we can suggest a few alternate possibilities. One is that the city of Kirkland recognizes that many residents, like you, want to compost but live in a building that can’t or doesn’t participate in Kirkland’s onsite composting services. The city is piloting a community food scrap drop-off program that also accepts material like the cleaned meat trays. (Please be sure to remove the soaker pads and shrink wrap and put the trays loosely into the compost bin.) Details are online here.
We urge you also to engage with your property manager or homeowner’s association to sign up for composting service at your location. It’s free to all qualified apartment and condominium complexes. If you receive approval, you may complete this online application to sign up for composting service: Multi-family Compost Collection Service Application.
We hope this information is helpful. Our efforts to reduce packaging waste are ongoing, and we will continue to encourage development of better options and to incorporate them as they become available.