I’ve made many healthy changes in my diet and lifestyle over recent years. The biggest change is that I’ve significantly reduced my intake of processed and packaged foods and increased my intake of fresh, whole, organic foods. Because of this change, I’ve also had to change grocery stores. I used to do fine shopping with coupons at regular chain supermarkets and superstores, which suited me fine when I was buying mostly shelf-stable foods in boxes. However, once I decided to shift to more fresh produce, whole grains, and only organically and pasture-raised animal products, I found that the supermarket was no longer meeting my needs. Their produce was coated with yucky-feeling wax, and I could actually taste the pesticides in the food. The meats were low quality and unsatisfying. Supermarkets carry little to no organic foods, and the ones that do have them priced so much higher than their conventional counterparts that no one purchases them, so they were hardly fresh. Most of the bulk bins at the supermarket are filled with assorted candy, not whole grains. You get the idea.
So I started shopping at specialty markets like Whole Foods and Trader Joes. This was a vast improvement. Of course the prices are higher than those at the supermarket, but the quality of the food is so much better. These stores are great, and they do offer a much wider selection of organic foods, but many of the organic foods travel many food miles before they reach the shelves. So the food might not have pesticides, but it might also not have been picked at the correct time to ensure full nutritional value. In addition, the nutrients tend to degrade once it is picked, so the more time that passes before it gets to your plate, the less beneficial the food will be.
Sometimes it is possible to find food that is both local and certified USDA organic–this is great, but it is rare. There is an ongoing debate on whether it is better to buy local food that is not certified organic or whether it is better to buy food that is from another country, but that has been certified organic. If I have to choose, I choose local.
The main reason for this is that many small, local farms do farm using organic and sustainable methods but just have not gone through the USDA’s process to become certified as organic. This process is expensive and involves jumping through lots of hoops and going through lots of red tape. While it might be no big deal for huge food corporations, this process is just not feasible or possible for smaller farms. So while I still do some shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, I now do the majority of my shopping at my co-op, Weavers Way, which has two locations in Philadelphia. Most of the food is local and farmed in organic ways, some is from certified organic farms, and some does come from overseas and is fairly traded. The selection is always seasonal, which is also important in terms of freshness, and the prices compare very well to the larger stores. Although it is open to the public, it is member-owned, and I am a proud member.
According to their website, “Weavers Way is one of over 5,000 food cooperatives in the country, ranging in size from tiny buying clubs to chains of co-op supermarkets. Together, these food co-ops serve more than three million Americans. Food cooperatives have been at the forefront of many of the most important issues impacting the food Americans eat, including unit pricing, nutritional labeling, the establishment and protection of organic standards, genetically modified foods, and the importance of food that is locally grown.”
Food co-ops also are very closely involved in their communities, and offer many educational programs to all community members, young and old. They also are involved with local schools. My daughter’s class was able to take a class trip to one of the Weavers Way farms to learn about where food comes from. The co-op is very progressive and is always looking to branch out and improve. For these reasons, I am proud to be a member and I try to support them when I can.
Weavers Way recently opened one new store and renovated the flagship store in Mt. Airy, a northwestern neighborhood in Philadelphia. They are also in the process of revamping their website. I follow them on Facebook, and when they posted about the new website and asked for volunteer models to participate in a photo shoot for the new site of course I wanted in. I was really excited that they picked me to participate…but the most fun part was that I got to bring a friend with me since one of the models had a scheduling conflict. I thought it would be really fun to invite my friend and guest blogger Steph Hendel. I know you all loved that great fitness post she wrote here on HH not too long ago.
We had a great time at the shoot–I got to wear the fierce orange apron and pose as a happy working member and Steph got to play the happy shopper. We also got to meet some other awesome co-op members and staff. It was a great day, and the folks at Weavers Way generously sent us some of our photos to use on our websites and social media. Here are a couple fun ones…
|If you’re going to buy milk, make sure it is organic!|
|The happy co-operators|
I can’t wait to see their new website! I will share it once it is finished.