Sharing Abundance with Employees

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Whole Grocer owner Jeff Rice stocks the fridge and shelves in the employee break room with food that’s still good but past the deadline for sale. Employees can take home three items a day in the “Whole Share” program.

Food culled from Whole Grocer shelves is offered to its staff.
By Jennifer Dorsey Mar 21, 2018

Late Friday afternoon some of Jackson Whole Grocer’s employees were walking out the door with free goodies.

One carried away a half-dozen eggs and a plastic carton of cherry tomatoes, and another took a package of gluten-free lemon cookie dough and a wedge of truffle cheese.

Store owner Jeff Rice was happy to see it. Upstairs at the store he stocks the employee break room’s fridge and shelves with items that are perfectly edible but have passed their official expiration date and can’t be sold to customers. Employees — there are 120, with about half at the store on any given day — can help themselves to up to three things a day.

Rice calls the program “Whole Share.”

“For me this is about taking care of employees, but it’s also about reducing food waste,” he said.

Whole Grocer is vigilant about seeing food put to good use even if it doesn’t leave the store in customers’ shopping bags.

A refrigerated room is filled with crates for sorting produce, dairy products and packaged food. About 10 crates a day — or 35,000 pounds a year, Rice said — go to Hole Food Rescue, which distributes the food to residents in need. Some things are recycled back into the store, like bruised fruit that customers turn their noses up at but is good for smoothies or desserts. Some items from the hot bar, the pizza bar and salad bar go to a farm to feed pigs.

“The amount of food going out of here in a compactor is negligible,” Rice said.

Whole Share complements and expands on those efforts.

“I said, ‘Let’s feed our own first,’” Rice said.

Late Friday what was left toward the end of the day included a few packages of sliced bread, a Naked juice, a roast beef sandwich, yogurt, milk and asparagus. Everything is dated so it doesn’t stay beyond the point when it’s good.

There’s a mix of treats — doughnuts and pies, for example, that won’t go to Hole Food Rescue — and healthy things.

“I’m stoked about the dairy alternatives we have,” said Neil Egan, marketing manager. He also appreciates the packages of Organic Girl kale and other greens. At home, he said, “You can saute that or throw it in a smoothie.”

“Shrink,” or waste, is a normal part of the grocery business, Rice said. It’s standard that 5 percent to 6 percent of produce won’t be purchased, like bananas that shoppers snub once a few brown spots appear. Food displays are designed to create a sense of plenty, because, Rice said, “abundance sells.” Nobody wants to buy the last meatball.

Whole Grocer’s efforts, including Whole Share, are designed to ensure that as little as possible is truly wasted.

“I just feel like it’s us doing our part,” Rice said.

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