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I was visiting my mother in Tracy, CA and before reaching the house we decided to drop by what they consider the ‘local’ grocer.  WinCo is interesting.  It’s an employee owned business, which is great for employees and the company, yet when it comes to our food system (how we produce, process, distribute, and market – among other things) the same issues still exist in terms of how our food supply and system works.  Now, I’ve yet to visit any of the WinCo stores in the Seattle, WA region, but I have visited the one in Tracy.  I’m putting the caveat because Seattle is the first city to pass and implement a food policy action plan: http://www.seattle.gov/environment/food_plan.htm  which might shift how the stores operate there, however, for the store in Tracy, I was a bit disappointed.  I am not sure why WinCo doesn’t support organic suppliers, have more whole foods, or have any local suppliers identified in their perishables (fruits, veggies, dairy, nuts, meats, etc.) sections – but these options are missing.

It is true that WinCo is pushing some good green initiatives (from their website) such as sky lighting, energy efficient cooling units, recycling of plastics, etc.  However, they still must utilize the same distribution mechanisms the rest of the big grocers use to move food around.  Why not utilize the local folks since we are in the SJV (San Joaquin Valley)?  I believe that would attract a number of customers on its own, without loss leaders and pushing the food that is unhealthy.  The initiatives, which are a good start, should not be the baseline businesses strive for; they should be the standards with which the business begins with and we should be striving for more.  *This in part gets into the reason(s) why certifications are so tricky – yes, have some minimum standards, but not because you want to just see the premium on price for your product; do it because the essence of where the movement is going is to strive for more sound business practices that better integrate natural systems.  

Also, having gone through the store and reading reviews on Yelp, I notice that prices are low for many of their offerings, but what’s important here is to note that those prices are not reflecting their true value, see Patel’s Value of Nothing:  http://www.guardian.co.u…   The fact that many reviewers comments want lower prices for food reflects part of the challenge for ‘urban’ food.  This of course drives down prices for producers and then drives them out of business (among a lot of other factors too).  Not to say that we should be paying $10 for 4 apples, like at some farmers’ markets, but somewhere in-between seems more appropriate.

With respect to the bulk section, I was disappointed again.  I was happy to see a bulk section, that’s a good start.  But if you look at the products in the bulk section you’ll notice how much everything is treated, added to, or changed from its original form; and nothing is organic.  Everything has been tampered with in some way.  It would be good to see whole, natural, and local foods there; and if we could switch out those plastic bags, that might attract me back to WinCo.

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