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Customer Comments

Food waste

Q: As a member of the food waste task force, a committee made up of members from the Dane County Food Council and the Madison Food Policy Council, it is encouraging to see the coop highlight the problem of food waste [See Ben Becker’s May’s article “Food Waste”].  With the incredibly large numbers put forth in the article, it can be a bit staggering to think that a single individual can make a impact. One person can.We have enough food in Dane County that no one need go hungry. The number one barrier by far is the ‘people power’ needed to get food from the point where it would have turned into waste to where it can be eaten by a person in need of food. If we can get people to volunteer  as little as 2-3 hours a month, the results can be amazing. There is help needed in all aspects of food recovery: gleaning from farmers’ fields, food pantry help, repackaging prepared food in licensed kitchens, transporting food from A to B, developing policy and help enacting changes in the system, etc. The list is endless. Everyone has the talent to help somewhere. Please help, it is invigorating and satisfying. -Bill Warner Dane County Food Council chair, Snug Haven Farm

 A: Thank you so much for providing the additional ways one person can make a difference. We appreciate it! -Liz Wermcrantz, Editor

Multi-Unit and Commercial Buildings Composting

 Q: [Editor’s Note: This isin response to Charity Bingham’s article “Common Ground” in April’s issue of the Reader (] The challenge faced by multi-unit dwellings (and commercial buildings housing  kitchens) is a step beyond simple “do the right thing” advocacy. If the Coop stands by her recommendations, a huge segment of member/shoppers are being overlooked. These folks may want to compost but either:

1) Don’t have a garden space in which to do so;

2) Are not aware they could encourage building management and condo associations to investigateoptions.

3) Uninformed about commercial, household pick-up services like Earthstew and City of Madison Recycling Office’s (limited area) Compost Collection Program, to name only two;

4) Thinking it should be a no-brainer, as easy as other types of recycling.

An Urban Land Interests representative has discussed with me offering compost service for Block 89’s multiple kitchens, but the logistics and expenses are daunting so far. On the other hand, one solution, City of Madison Streets Compost Program, is practically dormant due to lack of public demand.  I realize this type of advocacy may be beyond The Coop’s scope, but with the amount of space devoted to the April article, members deserve to be informed further.  

Completely viable for curbside residential and small volume production kitchen pick ups, Madison’s several years-old Streets Division Compost Program is growing very slowly due to lack of political will, resources and public interest.  It now collects from a limited number of restaurants and bakeries.  Other haulers provide such services to groceries and Brat Fest under certain conditions. These solutions can only become more available with demand!

 A: Thank you for the input and for outlining some ways people in multi-unit or commercial buildings can make a difference! Take care, Liz Wermcrantz, Editor

Mama, Papa and Baby Bear Bags

 Q:I always bring plenty of reusable grocery bags and I do appreciate help with bagging, especially when I’m shopping for a whole week. But often I repack before I even load the car when some of the bags are much heavier and fuller than others. That makes it hard to carry and sometimes means that items fall out of the bags on the way home. Today I came home with a Papa Bear bag (20lbs maybe?), a Mama Bear bag, and a Baby Bear bag (a loaf of bread and 2 other small items). Can you please train your baggers to look over the whole load and try to make each bag a reasonable weight? Some of us older folks may look fit, but it’s not as easy to carry a heavy bag as it used to be. By the way, when I bike I always pack my own bags because I don’t expect everyone to understand how to balance the weight for a bicycle.

 A: Thanks for sharing your feedback. You’re right, it can be challenging to carry your groceries when they are unbalanced, or when one bag is really heavy. I have shared your feedback with our Front End managers at East, North and West so that we can provide a reminder to those bagging to be more mindful of this in the future. Please let us know if there is anything else we may do for you! Enjoy the week! -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services

Workers’ rights

 Q: Hey, guys! I have a little question about your canned tomatoes. In the Summer and Fall we usually grow our own, but during the cold months canned tomatoes are more convenient. Unfortunately, I know that a great deal of tomatoes these days are picked by underpaid immigrants- some of them quite literally slaves (I do know that there are also some tomatoes that are picked by machines). 

Therefore, I’d be interested in any information you could give me on the workers’ rights ethics behind any of your canned tomato brands. Now, because consumers are only just waking up to this issue, this information can be hard to dig up (I’ve tried a little myself and just reached dead ends!), but if you could pass on whatever you know that would be great. 

Thanks so much again for all the incredible work you guys do!  ;)

 A: Thanks for writing! I’m afraid I don’t have a ton of detailed information about the workingconditions of the workers who grow and pick the tomatoes for all of our canned tomato brands. As you say, it can be really hard to get past the marketing for the larger brands and figure out what is exactly going on. 

Here’s what I can tell you:

Muir Glen and Field Day brand organic tomatoes are grown in California. Though there certainly is still exploitation of farm workers in California, there are also a lot more laws and regulations protecting workers than in many other places; and California is in the process of increasing the minimum wage for farm workers. Also, California has not had any of the high-profile tomato slavery rings that have recently been exposed in Florida. That said, to my knowledge, neither of these companies has put out any statement regarding their treatment of farm workers, so specific details are hard to come by.

Bionaturae and Yellow Barn brand organic tomatoes are both made with Italian-grown tomatoes. Italy certainly has its own share of issues with mistreatment of undocumented farm workers, many of whom come from Romania. That said, these two brands are of an extremely high quality and my guess is that they do uphold ethical treatment of their workers. Yellow Barn particularly stands out as they source tomatoes from a network of biodynamic farms, and one of the tenets of that form of farming is social responsibility. 

One brand we carry, ShurFine, is on our shelves because it offers a lower cost, non-organic option for Co-op Owners who prefer that. This is a low cost conventional brand, and it’s very hard to say where the tomatoes come from or what the workers’ circumstances are. 

Willy Street Co-op also produces our own organically grown diced tomatoes, with tomatoes sourced from the same local farms that we work with in the Produce department. Unfortunately, this year, we did not produce enough to have a continuous supply through the winter, and all of our stores ran out about a month ago. We have a farm (New Traditions in Hillsboro, WI) lined up to grow tomatoes for us this year, in much larger quantities than we had this year, so I’m hopeful that these will be on the shelf from the fall of 2017 all the way through till the next local tomato season. I’ve visited this farm, and can say with certainty that the farmer, Robert, uses the best agricultural and employment practices. 

I hope this is helpful information. Let me know if I can be of any more help! Best, Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing

Organic food waste 

 Q: Could you please inform me what you are doing with your organic food waste? Are you recycling it?

 A: Thank you for your question about food waste! We do in fact recycle much of our organic food waste through partnerships with composting services. Food waste we can recycle includes coffee and tea filters, fruits, grains, eggshells, breads and vegetables; but unfortunately, we cannot compost oils or dairy products. This waste is collected from the compost container in our Commons as well as from back-of-house operations like our Juice Bar. In part, the food waste we source to composting services will be recycled into the Purple Cow brand compost you can find at our stores. Leftoverbones and meat from our Prepared Foods departments are also collected for rendering. 

In addition to recycling, we strive to reduce the amount of waste we create by working to ensure that, as much as possible, the food we sell gets eaten. This includes offering many products that are in less-than-peak condition to customers at a discount. We also work with local food collection services including Second Harvest to donate our food surpluses. And, our Produce department can often provide a bag of discarded vegetable scraps to customers with hungry chickens or rabbits.

Thanks again for your question. We are always excited to share about our efforts to make the Co-op more sustainable! –Ben Becker, Executive Assistant

Customer service

 Q: Customer service is AWESOME at the Co-op! I have come in with weird requests more than a few times. I’ve called in and received a full verbal list of everything you have locally and in season so I could design the menu for a party, I’ve been provided sample cups that weren’t on sale for another party I was hosting, one team member stored his laptop over mine so I could go shopping without my computer in my arms. I am so grateful for how helpful the coop is, and also how easy it makes buying locally. I prioritize shopping at the farmers market and sourcing from my workshare, but the coop helps me fill in the gaps easily. I have a window of knowledge into how difficult it is to maintain a quality, consistent line of local products, and the co op does a great job. I just moved to the North side, and one of the largest draws to move here, in addition to the FEED kitchen and Warner Park, is the co op. I just love it here! Thank you for doing such an amazing job making it much easier for me to lead a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. I can’t imagine the healthcare bills you are saving me and others, and all the potlucks and smiles you help make!

 A: Thank you so much for sharing your Co-op experiences with us! It’s great to hear that our staff has made grocery shopping more convenient for you. I’ve passed on your positive feedback to our Store Director at North, Jenny Skowronek and the Assistant Store Manager, Jeff Dempsey. I’ve also posted your comment for all staff to enjoy! Have a great weekend, and we hope we’ll see you in the store soon! -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services

Kraft products

 Q: please at least take out Kraft!

 A: Thanks for writing! As you may know, our product mix at Willy North (and all of our stores) is based largely on the preferences of the Owners who shop there. We’ve received hundreds of customer requests for products (including Kraft brand items as well as other brands owned by Kraft), and we have chosen to carry quite a few of those items based on customer interest. As a consumer-owned Co-op, we exist to serve the needs of our Owners, and this is one of the most tangible ways we can do that. 

That said, we do have a boycott policy in place so that Owners can join together to ask us to take certain products off the shelf. If we hear from 1% of our active Ownership that they would like us to stop carrying a product, we will open an official comment period, which may lead to an organization-wide boycott. Your comment will be counted toward that 1%. 

Thanks again for writing. I really appreciate that you took the time! –Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director


 Q: Are any of the tomatoes carried at the coop fair trade? Thanks

 A: Thanks for writing! We do carry certified Fair Trade tomatoes and other produce items when we are able to source them. Just a few years ago, the only fair trade produce item availableto us regularly was bananas, but in the last few years that supply has increased greatly on a number of items including tomatoes and a few other staple crops from Mexico and Central America. 

That said, there still isn’t enough of a supply for me to guarantee that you will find certified fair trade tomatoes on our shelves all the time. I’d recommend looking for the fair trade certifier’s certification on stickers or printed on the packaging for tomatoes. 

Thanks again for writing. We’ll continue to seek out fair trade produce (including tomatoes), and I’m hopeful that more and more will become available to us in the next few years. Best, Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director

Low-Income programs

 Q: I want to thank you for offering programs for low-income individuals and families. Being able to shop at Willy Street Co-op and having such a wonderful variety of local and organic foods to choose from is a privilege. The food bar, bakery and all vegan/vegetarian/gluten free options are greatly appreciated. I have a hard time hearing how some people think their privileged experience is somehow ruined with the inclusion of conventional items, non-organic foods or using the bag credit to help fund the Double Dollars program. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s why I joined the co-op. And yes, I will always like to CHIP.

 A: Thank you so much for the positive feedback, I’ve shared it with all of our staff to enjoy. We are proud to continue expanding our offerings and programs to meet the needs of all the people we serve in our community. We’re even prouder to work with our many Owners who continue to support Community CHIP and also wish to contribute personally to improving food access in Dane County. We appreciate your support, your Ownership, and the kind words. Have a great evening! -Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services

Web search

 Q: The products page ( has both a search bar and product navigation (on the right). When you click on say ‘bulk’ it takes you to a page with out the search options. Since the site is made with Drupal and the page with views it would be nice if you added the search functionality to the product pages in a particular category (like bulk) Thanks

 A: Thank you for your feedback! The search feature on our website could definitely use some improvement. If you enter your search on the main Products page, results from Bulk will come up if they match your search. If you happen to know the PLU number of the bulk item you’re looking for, there is a PLU search on the Bulk page.

Although we can’t make any changes to the current site, it is still important to get suggestions like yours to guide development of the new site. We are going to start developing a new website very soon, and making an intuitive search function is one of our top priorities. 

Thank you for your comment, and I’m sorry we can’t change the website at this time! Sincerely, Ellie Habib, Webmaster

Product Information

 Q: Hi there, I hope this finds you well. I want to thank those at Willy Street co-ops for providing awesome food and I have really appreciated the depth of information that staff have about what is sold there and if they don’t know they genuinely look into it. This goes more for Willy West folks as that is where I shop with the exception of the occasional east side trip. I imagine the helpfulness exists in all of the stores. My main reason for writing is prompted by my baby’s elevated lead levels in her blood. We have exhausted much of the tests to be done in the home, and haven’t found a significant source, so we are now turning to looking at our food. we aren’t looking to blame, just to find the source so we can eliminate it. I don’t think from my research that organic standards require soil testing for lead or testing animals or things like eggs for lead. this is really unfortunate because it’s a big deal and pretty common especially on properties with old homes and outbuildings or sites where old buildings have been burned or torn down. At this point we are pinpointing animals products because that is what our daughter consumes more regularly and consistently as opposed to veggies. I know that eggs can contain lead and that mammals store it in fat and bones and the liver. So with that in mind we are wondering about the following products that we consume very regularly (almost daily): *M & M’s soy free organic eggs *Bones (I think these come from a variety of farmers) *twisted Oaks farm (we get their pork and chicken products) *Wisconsin Meadows Beef products (bones, liver, ground) My questions for each of these farms: 1. Have you visited these farms? 2. Are there older homes and buildings (basically built before 1978) that the animals have access to or roam around (within 20 feet) 3. were there ever-older homes or buildings that were torn or burned down 4. do you have contact information for these farmers that you are able to pass along to me? (if you aren’t able to answer these other questions) 5. do you know if any of them do any testing in their soils, eggs, or animals for lead or the paint of any outbuildings the animals are near? Thank you for any support you are able to give in this regard,

 A: Thanks for writing—I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this issue with your daughter! 

We’ve reached out to the three vendors you mentioned. Here’s what we heard back:

M & M soy-free eggs: We have never visited this farm, but we have a great relationship with Michael Miller, the owner. He said that all of their buildings are new since 1991, and there are no older homes or barns that have been torn down. He suggested that you could contact his organic certifier if you’d like to know more about the testing required for his organic certification: GOA (Global Organic Alliance).

Twisted Oaks Farm: We have never visited this farm either. Chad, the farmer, reported that to his knowledge, no animals would come in contact with any lead. The farm buildings were all built post 1978, and the house on the property is from 2008. The only metal on the farm would be galvanized gates. The water is tested every year for slaughter reasons and it comes back very pure because of all the sand in the fields. All water pipes were replaced in 2008 as well and are plastic. 

Wisconsin Meadows (Wisconsin Grassfed Beef Cooperative): This is actually a cooperative of 170 Wisconsin grass-fed beef farmers. We did reach out to Rod, our contact, but have yet to hear back from him. I’ll let you know when he does get back to us. 

Lastly, our Meat Category Manager found this article ( that maybe useful for you - it does a good job of outlining the research that’s been done on lead in bone broth. 

If there’s anything else I can do to help, please let me know. Thanks again for reaching out and good luck! Best, Megan Minnick, Director of Purchasing



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