Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Whole Foods Places a Priority on Giving Back

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 @ 01:36 PM
DSC_7003-1Courtney Wittenstein, the former team marketing leader at Whole Foods in Hyannis, said the best part of her job was supporting community organizations like HAC.

The academic term for a business’s ethical and moral obligations to its immediate and extended community is known as corporate social responsibility.

So what exactly does that look like in the real world? On Cape Cod, one need only visit Whole Foods in Hyannis, to understand how this buzzword has become more than just a talking point and the actual foundation on which a company can help a community thrive.

Since opening in May of last year, the grocery food chain has placed a priority on giving back in large and small ways to Cape Cod and beyond. “One of the core values of Whole Foods is to give back to the local and global community,” the store’s former marketing team leader Courtney Wittenstein said. 

It begins with the products stocked on the store’s shelves. Many are from local vendors or from small farms in countries that have received micro-loans from Whole Foods to help them not only survive, but thrive.

At the grassroots level, Whole Foods devotes one day each quarter and picks one local charity to receive 5 percent of all sales. Past recipients have included Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting (SPAT) and Calmer Choice. In June, HAC was the beneficiary of that day, receiving nearly $3,000 towards its housing programs. 

The store’s generosity does not end there. Every month, it works with a variety of Cape-based organizations, providing in-kind donations, whether it’s food or gift certificates, to support their fundraisers and events.

“We want to have a community connection,” Wittenstein said. “It is really important to us.”

Among the organizations that Whole Foods has aligned itself with is HAC. Once a week, the company donates groceries to the NOAH Shelter and Angel House. These donations have ranged from pasta to bread to dairy products.

From a budgetary standpoint, HAC has already seen a benefit from its relationship with Whole Foods. NOAH’s grocery bills have been slashed from $2,500 in 2013 to $1,200 last year. “Not only does this donation offer healthier and varied food choices, but it allows us to put resources back into helping our clients find permanent housing,” said Julie Wake, HAC’s former director of communications and development.

The added benefit to HAC clients is that they have a chance to eat healthier food they normally would not be exposed to. “Everything that comes from Whole Foods is total quality,” Greg Bar, the director of the NOAH Shelter, said. “It is stuff we would never dream of buying ourselves.”

Whole Foods charity to HAC has extended beyond these donations to include pumpkins which Angel House mothers decorated with their children prior to Halloween. The store also donates decorated cakes to children celebrating birthdays at Angel House.

And last December, Whole Foods set up a giving tree for customers and store employees to donate gifts to more than 30 children living in shelter or who had recently made the transition out of shelter. “It being the giving season, it brought a lot of life into the store because people wanted to give, but didn’t know where or how to give,” Wittenstein said, noting that it reinforced the fact that, “people love to give, especially to kids because it is so important.”

Wittenstein said Whole Foods’ commitment to HAC will only continue. 

And she was hopeful that store employees could visit Angel House and the NOAH Shelter to understand who Whole Foods is helping through its philanthropic efforts. “I think it is really important for our team members to see where this is all going because they will maybe think twice before throwing something away and realize they could be potentially feeding a family,” she said.

Though her job was multi-faceted, Wittenstein said the most rewarding aspect was being able to give back to organizations like HAC. “This is the favorite part of my job because I get to go home knowing I have helped people. It is so gratifying,” she said.