When Whole Foods opened in Detroit, there were questions on whether or not the vast majority of Detroit could afford the upscale grocer. Goals were set into place to make the grocer more accessible to the citizens of Detroit. The results, however, have been a mixed bag.
It’s easy to gloss over the details in all the hubbub over the feature I just published with Slate and the Food and Environment Reporting Network, “Can Whole Foods Really Chance the Way Poor People Eat?” But I would encourage anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of food reporting to pay attention to the data set we amassed for the piece.
What’s the big deal with the data?
Comparing food prices between stores is phenomenally difficult to do well. Brand names, sale prices, different sized packaging…all of it gets very confusing, very quickly. The USDA does track food prices, but only at the bulk level—for a pound of green peas, for example. But most of us don’t buy just a pound of shelled green peas. We buy Green Giant, or we buy Cascadian Farmr, or we buy White Rose, with all the presumed differences between them affecting price. There simply isn’t anywhere that researchers can go, let alone consumers, to see a coherent comparison with name brands. Until now. Continue reading “BONUS: How Whole Foods really prices its food”
A couple of years ago, as winter gave way to spring, Toyoda Ruff began to think about changing how she ate. Ruff had always been heavy, but her son, Tarik, a freshman honor student, had recently crossed the 300-pound mark, prompting Ruff to ferry him to appointments at a children’s weight loss clinic, 11 miles away in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, and to document everything he ate for two months. At 270 pounds, her husband, Jermaine Harris, wanted to slim down, too. Ruff was beginning to see her family’s weekly fast-food habit and visits to Golden Corral’s all-you-can-eat buffet as a problem.
As Ruff mulled over these changes, a friend cajoled her into joining a healthy cooking class at their church. Ruff was on medical leave from her job as a probation officer due to an injury, and the break gave her time to consider her meals. The more she thought about eating healthy, the more intrigued she was by a new store: Whole Foods, which had just opened in Detroit. “It was on the news. People were talking about it at church,” Ruff said. “Everybody was talking about it.” Continue reading “Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat?”
Fern Talks & Eats is a party, a performance, and a moveable feast. The centerpiece of the evening is a series of stories told by FERN writers. Like a progressive meal, each story unfolds from a different stage, paired with a thematically related dish specially prepared by an area chef. The dish with McMillan’s talk was garlic soup and garlic grissini, by Chef Mary Cleaver of Cleaver Co.
Food and Environment Reporting Network • May 6, 2013
We are honored to report that Tracie McMillan’s story on the plight of farmworkers, “As Common As Dirt,” won a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award last week. The story, produced by the Food & Environment Reporting Network in collaboration with The American Prospect, appeared in the magazine’s September 2012 issue. Considered the Pulitzers of the food reporting world, the Beard Award was FERN’s first journalism prize, and also came within our first year of publishing. Continue reading “FERN Wins James Beard Award”