Why I’m Not Buying Today’s Whole Foods Daily Deal on LivingSocial

I find something unsettling about Whole Foods. Although they generally provide better quality food than Publix or other big name grocery stores, the Whole Foods model is not one I value in my community.

When I was a teenager in Miami, I used to walk a mile to a little health food store near the Dadeland South metro station on US-1. It was during high school after I had decided to be vegan and I was exploring my new “health food” options. I don’t remember the name of the store, but it was a hole-in-the-wall type of place where I would occasionally buy organic (some locally-sourced) produce, fair-trade chocolate, or Nag Champa incense. Although it was small, it had its charm, especially because it was literally the only health food store in several miles’ radius.

About a year later, Whole Foods bought out the Wild Oats chain, which had a huge store a mile south of my local health food store on US-1. Whole Foods simultaneously opened another store about a mile north of my local health food store, just off of US-1. In mere months, the health food store closed its doors for good. It was sandwiched between two Whole Foods and it suffocated.

Today, aside from Beehive Natural Foods on Bird Road (a 20-year-old small grocery store with a charming juice bar and vegan cafe), there are few, if any, health food stores that I know of within South Miami. But there are a handful of Whole Foods.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Whole Foods, and I shop there sometimes when I visit my parents in Miami. Thank goodness that people have a big-name place to shop that offers some healthier and alternative foods, and it’s a fun place to shop. At Whole Foods, you can buy organic produce, bulk grains, and other interesting health products. They also have a great cafe that is a good place to eat lunch. And the Whole Foods company, admirably, has some focus on food ethics, with its Whole Trade Program and Seafood Sustainability ratings.

But the prices at Whole Foods make me swallow uncomfortably, and I do not like the idea of paying (especially paying that much) for a fruit or vegetable that was shipped from California, Mexico or Chile to me in Florida.

I would rather visit a farmers’ market in my neighborhood where I can pay a local farmer directly for my food; or a local grocery store with a humble focus on sustainability and our unique local culture. And I would pay these people proudly because I could see them face-to-face and feel comfortable knowing where my money is going.

The problem is that Whole Foods crushes these smaller local food distributors, and perpetuates a culture like that of Miami, where there are few local coffee shops, but plenty of Starbucks; few health food stores, but plenty of Whole Foods. If they opened a Whole Foods in Gainesville near Ward’s, or the new Citizens’ Co-op, it might crush them, too.

This is why I’m not buying the Whole Foods deal on Living Social today.

My intention is not to make anyone feel guilty about getting a great deal at a great store — go right ahead. But consider the role that Whole Foods plays in your community, and whether there are other places where you can buy food that was produced more nearby, and by people who you can actually meet and shake hands with.

My (admittedly unsolicited) opinion on Whole Foods has caused debates between me and my more eco-friendly friends before. I welcome further discussion of this topic on Facebook or wherever this might be shared.