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The Latest News from Wheatsville

Posts by Raquel Dadomo

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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Eden Foods Decision

The results of our annual election are in and as of January 1st, 2015, Wheatsville Food Co-op will no longer sell any Eden Foods products or use them in our recipes. The issue of whether or not to remove Eden Foods products was decided by a democratic vote as outlined in our bylaws. Below is the final verified vote tally from our Annual Election.

We know that some of our customers have been enjoying Eden Foods products for years and will be disappointed to learn that we will no longer stock that brand. As a cooperatively owned retail grocery, we abide by the rules mutually agreed upon in our bylaws and the collective decision reached by our owners.  We appreciate the effort and time it took members of the co-op to bring this issue to a vote and are very proud of the cooperative and democratic process used to make the final decision.

We have included a recap outline of the petition process that led to this decision and have included answers to frequently asked questions below.



Summary of the Issue

Eden Foods is one of the oldest natural and organic food companies in North America and has been an industry leader in maintaining organic standards, directly supporting North American family farms, and providing Non-GMO assurance on all products. The brand’s line of BPA-free canned beans, condiments, soymilk and pastas has been carried at Wheatsville Food Co-op since the 80’s.

On March 20, 2013, Eden Foods filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which administers the Affordable Care Act, for the right to opt out of contraceptive coverage for its employees.  Eden Foods objects to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies, if they choose to offer health insurance to their employees, to include coverage of a wide array of contraceptive choices.

Here’s an excerpt from Eden Foods’ statement on the issue:
We believe in a woman's right to decide, and have access to, all aspects of their health care and reproductive management. This lawsuit does not block, or intend to block, anyone's access to health care or reproductive management. This lawsuit is about protecting religious freedom and stopping the government from forcing citizens to violate their conscience. We object to the HHS [Health & Human Services] mandate and its government overreach.

Wheatsville’s Response

In response to Eden’s stance, some customers inquired if the co-op would stop selling Eden Foods products. As a cooperative grocery, Wheatsville doesn't stop selling product in response to any political issues. The co-op serves a very diverse customer base and there are individuals on both sides of any issue. We believe that we can best serve our community by continuing to focus on providing healthy foods.

The co-op encourages customers to vote, on this and other issues, with their dollars by supporting those companies they like and believe in.  When (for any reason) products don’t sell, the co-op stops carrying them.

If the products in question, such as Eden Foods, continue to sell and see no significant decrease in support, the decision on whether or not to stop selling the product must be made through the petition process. This process is outlined in our bylaws as a way for owners to address issues like these in an open and democratic manner.

Petition and Election

By August 1st, 2014 Wheatsville members had gathered the necessary 500 owner signatures to submit the petition to the Board of  Directors. The required signatures were received and verified and so the issue was put to a vote in our recent election.

The co-op presented both sides of the issue and asked  owners whether or not the co-op should stop selling Eden Foods products.

After all the votes were verified and tabulated, the final vote was in favor of removing Eden Foods products from the co-op.


FAQ

  • When will Eden Foods stop being available?
    The co-op will sell down current stock and not place any reorders. The co-op will stop purchasing Eden Foods products for sale or use in recipes by 1/1/15.

  • Can a shopper still place special orders for the product?
    No. The co-op will no longer place special orders for Eden Foods products.

  • Will the co-op still cook with Eden products?
    No. The co-op will not use Eden Foods for ingredients in any of our housemade products.

  • Will the co-op have replacement products available?
    The co-op has identified all the items that would be affected by the vote and have made accommodations to find comparable replacements as available.

  • Can Eden Foods ever come back?
    The brand may come back to the co-op by the same process that took it off. A member petition would have to filed and endorsed by 500+ owners. The issue would then be put back on the general election ballot for a vote.

  • Have any other similar petitions been passed by owner election?
    Back in the 1980’s a petition was launched to not stock any wellness or bodycare products that were tested on animals. The petition passed and we can now say that we have a 100% cruelty-free wellness department.
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Eden Organics

Wheatsville Food Co-op has been receiving comments in the store and via social media regarding Eden Foods CEO's position on the Supreme Court's "Hobby Lobby" decision on June 30th, 2014. Eden Foods has expressed support for the Hobby Lobby ruling, and filed a similar complaint of its own against the U.S. government.

In response, some customers have inquired if the co-op would consider pulling Eden Foods products from our shelves. As a cooperative grocery, Wheatsville doesn't pull product in response to any political issues.  Our co-op serves a very diverse customer base and there are individuals on both sides of any issue. Instead, decisions on whether or not to pull products are made through the petition process, outlined in our bylaws, as a way for owners to address these issues in an open and democratic manner. Below is the section in our cooperative bylaws that pertains to this process:

3.3.3 Petitions Any matter that the owners wish to put before the ownership via a Co-op Vote may be placed on the ballot by a petition signed by at least 500 or five percent (5%) of the total number of owners in good standing, whichever is fewer. Proposals initiated by such a petition shall be included in the next regularly scheduled Co-op Vote, except that if a petition is signed by at least 1,000 or ten percent (10%) of the total number of owners in good standing, whichever is fewer, then the Co-op Vote shall be scheduled to commence no sooner than thirty days and no later than 60 days from the date the petition is submitted.

In order to have this, or any other matter considered on the next ballot, Wheatsville members would need to submit a petition to the Board of Directors by August 1st, 2014 with the next election cycle beginning September 1st, 2014.

As always, we encourage our customers and members to vote, on this and other issues, with their dollars by supporting those companies they like and believe in.  When (for any reason) products don’t sell, the co-op stops carrying them.

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Opening Day

'Like rain after a long drought.....' is how some die-hard co-op shoppers described Wheatsville's store opening this morning at 4001 South Lamar. The morning started off with torrential downpours but warmed and cleared as our friends, neighbors and shoppers started to trickle in for the morning festivities. Our General Manager, Dan Gillotte, Store Manager, Bill Bickford  and Board President, Rose Marie Klee all welcomed the gathering crowd and reminded everyone about the reason we're in business.

We're in business, and we're expanding that business, so that we can make a difference on things that matter to us. Our BIG Direction Goals are to:

  • Create More Local, Organic, Sustainable Food
  • More Co-op Economy and
  • More Happy People

As the co-op profits, so do the the things we stand for and support. We are here to support our local economy, to build community and to support more local, organic, sustainable food.

Our second store was opened by all in attendance pulling a streamer - a community-style ribbon cutting, put together by Rosie Weaver. Everyone has a hand in what we do here - so it seemed fitting that everyone had a hand in opening the new store.

Our store is successful because YOU. Over 13,000 owners, shoppers, neighbors, friends, community groups, fellow cooperators and staff - all working together to make this cooperative a very special place in Austin.

Our rainbow has officially reached the other side of the river!

More photos of our BIG Day can be found on FaceBook.

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Stainless Steel

As you can see by all the light - our new energy-saving Solatubes make our store's interior bright as day!

Our pace is starting to pick up at 4001 South Lamar! Bill, the Store Manager, has been busy receiving all sorts of orders - from aisle signs to stoves, we're starting to see our store come together! Everything, from metro racks to paint colors to tape dispensers has been decided, ordered and is in the process of being installed. These next several weeks are going to be a flurry of activity as we get set to open mid-September!

As a community owned cooperative, we have been paying very close attention to our budget and working within our means to give our owners, customers and staff the best store we can possibly make. From sturdy used industrial mixers to state of the art energy-saving Solatubes (which captures natural light at the roof level, and transfers it indoors using the world’s most reflective material to help us reduce energy consumption), we've worked hard to be thoughtfully thrifty.

And remember - we are NOT RAISING PRICES! Since we will be able to buy larger quantities customers will see prices on some items go down!

Looking forward to seeing you all soon and serving up the Popcorn Tofu to our new neighbors!

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