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The Latest News from Wheatsville

Posts by Raquel Dadomo

Work Strong Austin

This past fall Council Member Greg Casar introduced a proposal to Austin City Council that would make earning paid sick time the law in Austin as it is in over 40 cities nationwide. Unfortunately, approximately 223,000 Austin workers – 37% of the total workforce – are at risk of losing wages or being fired if they follow doctor’s orders when they or a family member is ill. His proposal to begin a stakeholder process regarding this issue was unanimously passed by council in October.


Because of Wheatsville’s longstanding earned paid time off benefit the co-op was asked to consult with Council Member Casar’s team along with other local businesses including Black Star Co-op, Sweet Ritual, Homeslice Pizza, Compost Peddlers, Purple Fig Cleaning Co, SAFE and many other businesses of all sizes, on the proposal and campaign.


At our Annual Owner Meeting, Greg Casar called out Wheatsville’s positive approach to worker’s rights in his remarks by saying that progressive businesses like Wheatsville give him and the rest of council the ability to move along a positive progressive agenda that helps more working people make a good living in our city.


The Austin City Council has begun a process to ensure all working families across our city have a better deal through a proposed earned sick days ordinance in Austin. If you would like to show your support, please find more info at workstrongaustin.com

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September is Organic Harvest Month!


What does “organic” mean?

Crops must be:

  • Grown in safe soil
  • have no modifications
  • must remain separate from conventional products

Farmers are NOT  allowed to use:

  • synthetic pesticides
  • bioengineered genes (GMOs)
  • petroleum or sewage sludge-based fertilizers

Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution (air, water, soil), conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy.


Why buy organic?

Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution (air, water, soil), conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy.

Organic produce is grown with natural fertilizers and with natural weed & pest control.  Small local farmers often use organic methods but sometimes cannot afford to become certified organic. Visit a farmer’s market and talk with the farmers. Find out how they produce the fruits and vegetables they sell. You can even ask for a farm tour.

Organic food buying tips:  Buy in season! Fruits and vegetables are cheapest and freshest when they are in season.


Why buy local, organic produce?

More money goes directly to the farmer and  stays within the community to strengthen the local economy. It also requires less fuel and time to get to market resulting in fresher, tastier food for your table.

Fruits and vegetables where the organic label matters the most:

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the results of government pesticide testing in the U.S., the following 12 fruits and vegetables, also known as the Dirty Dozen, have the highest pesticide levels on average. Because of their high pesticide levels when conventionally grown, it is best to buy these organic:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Imported Snap Peas
  • Potatoes

Non-organic fruits and vegetables with low pesticide levels:

These conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, also known as the Clean 15, were found to have the lowest levels of pesticides. Most of these have thicker skin or peel, which naturally protects them better from pests.

  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes

Why buy organic meat and dairy?

    Livestock are given all organic feed.
    Clean housing and rotational grazing.
    Livestock must have access to the outdoors.


What are the benefits of organic wine?

Organic grapes are not sprayed with chemicals and are produced by sustainable farming methods. In addition to producing a healthier wine, this also creates brighter flavors in the wine.

Does organic wine still contain sulfites?

Organic wines contain less sulfites then traditional wines. Sulfites are salts or sulfurous acids that occur naturally in most wines (it is very rare to find a wine that does not have any sulfites). Traditional wines contain added sulfites to help in their preservation, whereas organic winemakers do not add sulfites. The less sulfites a wine contains, the healthier it will be for your body.

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Our Green Features

Wheatsville Green Features

“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one  thing all of us share.” —Lady Bird Johnson

As a community owned co-op, we take our Cooperative Values & Principles very seriously. We fulfill the ideals of Principle #7, Concern for Community, in a number of different ways – one of which is being a good environmental steward. Through thoughtful, small daily actions – such as sorting our trash from recycling and compost after we eat – we can make a HUGE impact.
 
Thank you for doing your part – bringing your containers to refill, remembering your reusable bags, sorting your trash, composting, planting gardens, collecting rainwater, and for supporting your co-op!
 
Here are some things your co-op does to stay green:

  1. We recycle metal, cardboard, plastic, paper, glass, food scraps, and cooking oil
  2. Break it Down, our local recyclers, estimate that we divert 20 tons of cardboard each month between both stores. That’s the equivalent of 3 elephants!

  3. Break it Down also estimates that we divert 100 tons of recycling (cardboard, glass, and plastic) each month between both stores. That’s the same as 50 full-grown cows!

  4. Wheatsville is part of Austin Energy’s Green Choice program which uses the money we pay for utilities to build wind farms and help Austin reach its goal of 55% renewable energy use by 2025! Wheatsville came in at #29 on Green Power Partnership’s Top 30 Retail stores, you can view the full list here: www.epa.gov/greenpower/green-power-partnership-top-30-retail

  5. S. Lamar has 57 SolaTubes which use highly reflective fiber optic tubes to direct sunlight into our store so that we don’t have to use as much electricity. 

  6. Ceiling lights at S. Lamar adjust intensity depending on the amount of natural sunlight coming in from our SolaTubes.
  7. We only buy energy efficient coolers, refrigeration units, and equipment.

  8. We offer bulk refills of wellness products like Dr.Bronner’s soaps, lotions and laundry detergent!

  9. We use noVOC or lowVOC building materials and paint in order to have an odor-free store. 

  10. Our waterless urinal at S. Lamar saves 1.5 gallons of water per flush! 12 flushes per day saves 6,552 gallons of water per year!

  11. Our rainwater collection tanks at Guadalupe give us enough water to irrigate all of our landscaping!

  12. Our paper bags are made with 100% recovered fiber, minimum of 85% post consumer content, and are printed with water-based inks.

  13. Lots of bike parking, showers for staff, a bike to work benefit for staff members who ride 8+ hours/month. 

  14. Concrete parking lots, light paint colors, and awnings help keep us cool through the hot summers.

  15. Email receipts, double-sided receipts, and no receipts option significantly cut down the amount of paper register tape (BPA free) we have to buy.
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Guadalupe Refresh!

As the seasons make their rounds and the holidays breeze by, our stores see thousands of shoppers in a week. After lots of planning, our Guadalupe store refresh includes new products and fixtures, improved shopper flow, maintenance to our physical store, and lots more! Look for:

  • Expanded selection in fresh foods: produce, meat, deli & bakery!

  • New and improved selections for our prepared foods including more grab & go deli items, hot food and salad bar!

  • Improved wait time for sandwiches along with some new menu items!

  • Larger self-serve coffee bar to help improve flow and increase variety!

  • Beer and wine on tap for when you want to join a friend for a drink!

  • Additional energy efficient coolers that will help us increase our product variety!

  • NEW Fresh Seal packaging for meat!

  • Improved lighting and flooring!

  • Fresh paint for the exterior and interior!

To make room for some of these new features we’ve pared our grocery selection down to our most popular favorites which include all of our Co+op Basics, increased shelf space in Wellness, and have moved our meat-cutting room to S.Lamar in order to offer our Fresh Seal packaged meat and seafood items.

We’re very excited about these changes and hope you will be, too! Work will be finished mid-March. Thank you for your patronage!

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Higher Wages and Lower Prices

Shop Wheatsville and MAKE CHANGE!

Yep, you read it right. As we all know the cost of living is going up in Austin, and in order to keep our co-op staff members healthy and happy, Wheatsville has increased entry level wages for all staff member to $13.01 as of January 4, 2016. Compensation includes a full benefits package in addition to 401K eligibility for full-time employees. The $3+ increase in entry level wages affected over 80% of staff members employed by Wheatsville Food Co-op.

Since 1976 the co-op has been on the leading edge of social change, now 40 years later, the co-op continues along that path with a new generation of forward-thinking, progressive leadership. In order to make sure we stay in alignment with the cost of living we’re using nationally indexed figures that are updated annually. In addition, entry level wages will be reviewed every year to make sure the co-op is in alignment with market changes that may affect the overall cost of living.

Wheatsville gained valuable insight and help tackling wage satisfaction by working with National Co-op Grocers co-op and creating a livable wage and benefits model that can be replicated in co-ops across the country, whose staff are also struggling with significant cost of living increases.

So how do we pay for our wage increases? Well, we’ve done a lot of work finding ways we can work smarter and keep our stores humming along but the other part of it comes from you - and it’s actually pretty simple – GROW SALES!

Thanks for making Wheatsville Food Co-op one of the best food co-ops in the country! We’re 40 and keep getting better and better. It’s no accident – it takes everyone tugging just a little harder on their side to raise this barn – and we appreciate our almost 20,000 owners and shoppers that give us a hand. THANK YOU for an amazing 40 years.

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repeat

As a co-op grocer, one of our guiding principles, Principle #7, is Concern for Community. For us, it’s important for us to find ways to recycle and divert as much of our reclaimable resources as we can in order to help create a more sustainable store and city.  Break it Down, a local recycling operation started in 2009 by Jeff Paine and Melanie MacFarlane, has helped us achieve our goals for many years. They have a 99% recycled rate and accept and sort plastic, glass, cardboard, paper, and inedible food scraps from local businesses, offices, condos and homes.

Reclaimed Resources for BOTH stores:

  • PLASTIC, GLASS + OTHER: approx 8 tons/month

  • CARDBOARD: approx. 20 tons/month

“Bales are delivered to a paper mill just outside of Dallas. There the boxes are pulverized and reformed into long spools of cardboard. Those spools are shipped to a plant in California that cuts and prints the recycled cardboard to fill custom box orders. The boxes can then be shipped to businesses all across the country.” - Break it Down

Allen Schroeder from Break it Down picking up recycled cardboard bales.

  • COMPOST  approx. 15 tons per month

Break It Down partners with Organics By Gosh, a composting facility on East MLK. After grinding and curing, the finished compost is bagged and sold at retailers. Just look for the Organics By Gosh name on the bag and know that a tiny bit of your co-op is in there!


Compost drums are emptied, readied for curing. Photo courtesy of Allen Schroeder

  • FOOD RECOVERY: approx 4,000 lbs. per month

In addition to diverting tons of resources for the waste stream, we also contribute to food recovery efforts. Alan Shroeder, our Food Recovery Coordinator , connects edible fresh foods with people that need it. On a weekly basis, we donate upwards of 1,000 pounds of fresh fruits, veggies, bread, and dairy to local community organizations around the city, including Blackland Community Center and South Austin Community Center. Alan started his food recovery efforts in 2008 and received a grant from Bread for the Journey to help get him started.

Recovered food ready for distribution. Allen Schroeder

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9 Ways We Keep Wheatsville GREEN

In honor of Earth Day this month, we thought we’d share some of Wheatsville’s GREEN FACTS.

1. Wheatsville  is WAY ahead of the curve when it comes to recycling.  Austin has just started implementing a plan that would get businesses recycling by 2017, but we’ve been doing it for years! We  currently recycle metal, cardboard, plastic, paper, food scraps and glass!

2. In fact, according to our local recyclers, Break it Down, between both stores, we divert 20 tons of cardboard each month!

3. If you look up at the ceiling at S.Lamar, you’ll notice about 57 bubbly looking lenses. These are called SolaTubes. They use highly reflective fiber optic tubes to direct sunlight into our store so that we don’t have to use as much electricity. During construction, these SolaTubes were very useful to help keep the job sight lit!

4. Wheatsville offers bulk refills of wellness products like Dr.Bronner’s soaps, lotions and laundry detergent!

5. Throughout the S.Lamar construction process, we chose noVOC or lowVOC building materials and paint in order to have an odor-free store.

6. In the men’s room at S.Lamar we’ve installed a waterless urinal. This saves 1.5 gallons of water per flush! That’s means if we save 12 flushes per day, we save 6,552 gallons of water per year!

7. Way before Austin’s bag ban, we were offering recycled boxes and paper bags to customers. Our bags are made with 100% recovered fiber with a minimum of 85% post consumer content. They are printed with water-based inks, are Forest Stewardship Council for responsible use of forest resources.

8. We offer front-facing recycling and composting to customers, and our recyclers at Break it Down say we’ve got the cities best sorters! They rarely see mistakes which in-turn helps them be more efficient.

9. As a cooperative we have elected to contribute to renewable energy infrastructure here in Texas by subscribing to Austin Energy’s Green Choice program. This program uses the money we pay for utilities to build wind farms and help Austin reach it’s goal of goal of 55% renewable energy use by 2025!

We also do things like rainwater capture to help us irrigate our planter boxes, use LED lights, installed low flow toilets and have added showers to S.Lamar in order to keep our bike riders pedaling.

And remember, we are offering a FREE composting class from the City of Austin, in our Community Room at S.Lamar on Saturday, April 23, at 10am. By taking the class and reducing the size of your garbage can, you are eligible for a $75 REBATE on a home composting system. Each attendee will get a countertop composter for attending! RSVP for the class today!

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How Did Wheatsville Get Its Name?

Wheatville

Edited from stories collected from the Austin History Center  in 1996-2001

Wheatville, the first black community associated with Austin after the Civil War, was located at the western edge of Austin on former plantation land. The boundaries of Wheatville corresponded to present 24th Street to the south, 26th Street to the north, Shoal Creek to the west, and Rio Grande Street to the east.

James Wheat, a former slave from Arkansas, brought his family to the area and founded the community in 1867. In 1869 he bought a plot of land at what is now 2409 San Gabriel Street and became Wheatville’s first landowner. Wheat raised corn in a site now bounded by Guadalupe, West 24th, and San Gabriel streets.

Wheatville residents worked mainly as domestics in white households, merchants in the community, and as semiskilled laborers in the Austin construction industry. A few blacksmiths lived in Wheatville, and some residents farmed and raised livestock. George Franklin, a former slave and a carpenter, purchased land at the site of present-day 2402 San Gabriel in 1869 and constructed a stone building with walls four stones thick. Now known as the Franzetti building, it became the center of the community as subsequent owners used it to house families, grocery stores, various other businesses, and churches.

Wheatville had about 300 inhabitants at its peak, which was probably around the turn of the 20th century. The community remained relatively isolated until Austin’s white population began to expand toward the more varied landscape and better drainage offered to the west. Wheatville began gradually changing to a neighborhood of Italian immigrants, and white residents surrounded the community. In 1905 Salvatore Perrone bought the Franzetti building and began operating a grocery store there. As land values in the area increased, the city passed restrictions on building quality and the raising of livestock within city limits.

In 1928 the city of Austin adopted a plan to locate all public facilities for blacks, presumably schools, recreation facilities, and health clinics, in East Austin. The plan’s stated purpose was to draw the remaining black inhabitants in western Austin to the east. The Wheatville school closed in 1932, and the community had practically vanished by the mid-1930s.

The remaining sign of Wheatville is the stone building at 2402 San Gabriel. In August 1977 the Austin City Council declared the building a historical landmark. Wheatsville Food Co-op, founded in 1976, was named in memory of the community. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Austin American-Statesman, October 7, 1984. Austin History Center Files. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, A Pictorial History of Austin, Travis County: Texas’s Black Community, 1839-1920 (Austin, 1972). Jacob Fontaine III and Gene Burd, Jacob Fontaine (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin (Jacob Fontaine).  Nolan Thompson 
SOURCE:  New Handbook of Texas, 1996 
COURTESY: The Texas State Historical Association

Compiled by Raquel Dadomo from previously published stories and first-hand stories of people that were there.

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