A Tour Of Whole Foods’ Flagship Lamar Store
As part of my Nutrition class we visited Whole Foods’ flagship located in the heart of downtown Austin on Lamar Boulevard. Our guide was Dan Marek who was the Healthy Eating Specialist for the store but has since left to become School Program Educator for Whole Kids Foundation. He walked us through the store and explained some of the principals Whole Foods holds and explained some of their programs to help people eat healthier.
Our tour started as soon as we walked in the door in the fresh produce section. Dan explained the strict rules they have to follow in order to sell fruits and vegetables that are certified organic. Not only does the item have to be grown using organic methods but it also has to be shipped and stored in organic containers. If, for instance a certified organic item touches the floor, it is no longer organic because of the chemicals it might have been in contact with. Additionally, if a farm is certified organic, any pets living there have to be fed organically. (Both rules are a bit extreme for me, but okay…). Contrary to popular thought, only ten percent of the items at Whole Foods is certified organic.
Next to the produce department was Good Greens. I’ve walked past this counter without realizing what it is. Good Greens is a vegetarian / vegan pre-prepared food counter. Some items looked delicious while other (mostly the mock-items) I would be hesitant to try.
Next we made our way to the bulk bins. There Whole Foods offers not only the typical bulk items such as rice, beans, and nuts, but also spices, oils, and vinegars. Towards the front of the store the bulk bins hold a variety of granola and trail mixes as well as sweeter items such as chocolate covered almonds.
We then swung into the aisles for some class work on reading and comparing nutrition labels (pro-tip: just because it’s at Whole Foods doesn’t mean it’s healthy) before visiting the meat and seafood departments. I did not know before the tour that Whole Foods has a seafood restaurant, 5th Street Seafood, right there in the store and, according to them, it does more covers than any other seafood restaurant in Austin. At the meat department we were taught about the dry aging process that happens in store as well as how Whole Foods is making life better for animals by having higher standards than anyone else. That includes making sure that animals have mental stimulation and room to move and making sure that when meat is labeled as grass fed it’s not just grass finished.
From there we moved to the frozen section. Whole Foods has it’s own flash freezing facilities so that they can freeze their produce one hour after cutting. That way the vegetables and fruit retains most of their vitamins and minerals. They even have frozen chopped garlic and herbs for ultimate convenience.
Our last stop was the bakery. Whole Foods sells 32 types whole grain breads (designated with a purple label) including a rye made in house. I also learned that all leftover breads are donated to local shelters and food banks at the end of every day.
Obviously we didn’t get to see everything during our two hours of class time but I do want to thank Dan Marek for showing us around one of the premier grocery stores in the country and sharing his enthusiasm for food that is good and good for you.