Whole Foods Market plans to launch a monthly fresh food market on the east campus of the former St. Elizabeths hospital beginning April 5, bringing the chain’s natural and organic foods to one of the most impoverished areas of Southeast.
Scott Allshouse, Mid-Atlantic regional president for Whole Foods, said Whole Foods would donate all of its profits to charitable organizations in the area, which includes the Anacostia, Barry Farm, Congress Heights and Douglass neighborhoods.
The grocer is slated to make the announcement Tuesday morning at Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s regular press briefing, to be held at St. Elizabeths.
“We’re going to take the opportunity to sell our products, provide access to high quality foods, and then take the profits and donate 100 percent back to the St. Es community,” Allshouse said.
Whole Foods has four stores in D.C. already and is aggressively opening new ones in the area, having announced plans for Riverdale, H Street Northeast and the area near the Nationals Ballpark, as well as pursuing stores in Tysons Corner and at the former Walter Reed Army Hospital.
At St. Elizabeths, Whole Foods employees plan to sell products from a food pavilion the District built to gin up interest in redeveloping the site. In addition to foods like organic kale and vegetable broth, Allshouse said employees would provide recipes and nutritional information to customers looking to for healthier meals.
“We thought that we would bring obviously fresh produce…We thought of an organic pear and some organic apples. And then we thought some meat, so some whole chickens and some chicken breasts. And then whole fish,” he said.
For all its popularity among shoppers looking for organic and natural foods, Whole Foods isn’t known as a place for bargain shopping, and will be selling its products at regular prices among neighborhoods where poverty and unemployment rates are among the highest in the city.
“We’ve worked diligently to increase our discount offerings as well as our higher foodie offerings, so I think we have a full range of choices,” Allshouse said. “Sure the chicken breast we’re selling has never been given antibiotics and has an animal welfare rating. It’s still $4.99 a pound. If you went anywhere in Washington and want an all natural chicken, it’s at least $4.99 a pound….that is very competitive to what people are paying in the marketplace.”
“I think people will be pleasantly surprised,” he added. “Because they’ve been hearing we’re expensive, we’re expensive, but they’re getting a can of beans for 89 cents, they’re going to get vegetable broth for $1.99….they’re going to be able to feed their family for under 10 bucks.”
Gray is locked in a tight battle to win re-election, with the Democratic primary approaching April 1. The mayor is also expected to propose opening a $300 million hospital on the campus, a surprise idea that has not previously been part of planning discussions.
Allshouse said the announcement from Whole Foods had nothing to do with politics.
“This is what we do every day. We don’t do it in election years. We don’t do it in just Aprils and Novembers. This is what our higher purpose is,” he said.
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