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Neighborhood group: Whole Foods 'unwilling' to enter formal agreement

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  September 8, 2011 08:33 PM

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A neighborhood group hoping to negotiate a community benefits deal with Whole Foods Market said it was told by representatives of the grocer this week that the company is "unwilling to enter into any formal agreement at this time."

A subcommittee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council met with officials from Whole Foods Market Wednesday morning to discuss the supermarket chain's plans to move to the neighborhood and to present the group's "good neighbor" agreement.

After the meeting, Whole Foods representatives told Boston.com Wednesday afternoon that the neighborhood council did not ask officials from Whole Foods Market to sign a deal, but simply discussed a list of requests and topics.

Priorities the neighborhood council said its members presented include: "transparency of Whole Foods' philanthropic efforts in Jamaica Plain and a focus on the following issues: youth, local and livable employment, small businesses, and traffic and parking. There was also a request for Whole Foods to hold community meetings in English and Spanish quarterly in store to allow for formal time to ask questions, hear developments, and raise issues related to the store."

While the council "felt that the Whole Foods staff listened to issues presented," and described its existing corporate practices and outreach efforts, "the company did not commit to any action that is specific to our community."

Whole Foods officials "stated that they were unwilling to enter into any formal agreement at this time," the council's statement added. "Although no further meetings were discussed, we each agreed to continue dialogue and to work on creating a comprehensive list of specific programs Whole Foods will enact to benefit the Jamaica Plain community."

On Thursday evening, The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council issued this statement regarding the meeting:

Yesterday, members of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council met with Whole Foods leadership to discuss issues related to the opening of its store in the Hyde Square neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.

Leading up to meeting, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council held two community forums and created an ad-hoc committee that worked over a period of two months to write an extensive report analyzing the effect of having Whole Foods in the neighborhood.

The JPNC considered the recommendations of the ad hoc committee, sought input and feedback from numerous community organizations, and presented those priorities to Whole Foods staff. These include transparency of Whole Foods' philanthropic efforts in Jamaica Plain and a focus on the following issues: youth, local and livable employment, small businesses, and traffic and parking. There was also a request for Whole Foods to hold community meetings in English and Spanish quarterly in store to allow for formal time to ask questions, hear developments, and raise issues related to the store.

The members of the JPNC felt that the Whole Foods staff listened to issues presented. Whole Foods provided descriptions of current corporate practices that will be carried out at the Jamaica Plain store that may address the issues put forward by the community, but did not commit to any action that is specific to our community.

They also made it known that they welcome questions and comments and have staff (including a new Marketing Liaison at the Jamaica Plain store who is a JP resident) that are able to meet with community groups and individuals to discuss concerns, partnership requests, and general questions.

However, they stated that they were unwilling to enter into any formal agreement at this time. Although no further meetings were discussed, we each agreed to continue dialogue and to work on creating a comprehensive list of specific programs Whole Foods will enact to benefit the Jamaica Plain community.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.

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