Our deli: exquisite dishes from wholesome ingredients

By Chris Maher, General Manager

I was on a trip through Southern California with my family recently. As all of you know, travel is one of those conditions that can temporarily make adherence to an organic and local diet somewhat challenging. Surprisingly, natural foods stores are limited to a few neighborhoods in the L.A. area. There is only one co-op, Co-opportunity, in Santa Monica, far from where we were staying. So, I was pleased to see that there was a Whole Foods not too far from where we were visiting on one of our day trips. We made plans to get breakfast there and do some shopping to replenish our road snacks and ingredients for our meals.

I got a breakfast burrito and I will admit, it was pretty good. It was a decent value too. For $7 I got more burrito than I could finish in a meal. I was hungry and ate it pretty quickly, and only then did I read the ingredients. Not one single organic ingredient in the whole darn thing, and to boot, quite a few that I couldn’t pronounce on first reading. Hmmm… maybe not the good deal I first thought it was.
I am what the natural foods industry calls a ‘core’ shopper. I am well informed about food issues and dedicated to eating healthy, pure, organic, and ideally local ingredients. I read labels (usually before I buy, let alone eat the food). Of course, I know that WF has come under fire in the past for its product standards.

This experience caused me a moment of reflection with regard to our own awesome food service operation. Our deli is a cornerstone of the Co-op. It is one of the most popular and fastest growing departments in our store. Often, it is a new shopper’s introduction to what we do. Yet, I think sometimes there is a lack of awareness of just how awesome it is. So let me tell you…

All of our food is cooked from scratch. Unlike those larger conventional and natural foods stores which have central kitchens, often out of state and hundreds of miles away, we have a team of chefs and talented cooks who create exquisite dishes from whole ingredients. The vast majority of the ingredients that go into the foods we cook are organic. Many of thezesty-sweet-potato-and-chicken-tarragon-soupm are grown right here in our community. For example, every carrot consumed in the last few months in every deli dish was grown by our own Super Tuber Farms (www.supertuberfarm.com).

I know that our community, beyond other ‘core’ shoppers, appreciates this about our food. Even if they don’t know why, they appreciate the delicious flavor and freshness that is a characteristic of the deli because of our dedication to these principles. Yet, our
job is to make sure they know why organic, fresh, from scratch and local is better. The values that guide our purchasing decisions not only make great food, but they are what we need to recover our environment. In the next few months, we will be redoubling our efforts to showcase these values in our deli. Look for continued partnership with even more local farms and higher visibility of the organic ingredients that are already in there.

Thanks as always for your support of the Co-op. We couldn’t do it without you.
“The spirit of co-operation which binds the [Co-op] into one united whole in purpose and action, and gives to the shopping baskets of its members a great power to lift the ordinary commerce of daily existence into a movement for social betterment, is also the spirit which can regenerate the world.” – Catherine Webb, The Woman with the Basket


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