Whole Foods founder John Mackey: ‘We’re getting fat, and we’re getting sicker’

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I don’t f–k with Whole Foods. There’s not a brick-and-mortar Whole Foods close to me, and I balk at the prices of Whole Foods items on Amazon. When I need fruit and vegetables, I go to the Kroger around the corner from me, even though I know I could probably save a little bit of money if I went to the Wal-Mart that is also sort of close to me (I hate Wal-Mart for weekly grocery shopping and most things, honestly). So that’s where I am: too cheap for Whole Foods and yet not frugal enough to care about Wal-Mart. I’m sure there are many people who swear by Whole Foods and their overpriced items, but I’m not one of them. And Whole Foods founder John Mackey isn’t making it easy for WF enthusiasts either – he just gave an utterly tone-deaf interview to the NY Times this week. You can read the full piece here. These are the parts people took issue with:

On Trump’s leadership for the business world: “I’m not going to go there. It’s not my job to evaluate the consciousness of people and pass judgment on them. One thing I’ve learned over the years is, we are so divided in politics, whatever I say is going to upset 50 percent of the population. So my own personal politics, I keep to myself. I’m certainly not going to talk about President Trump. I’m merely saying that business is good at innovation. It’s good at trying new things. It’s good at disrupting. But you can only disrupt things when they’re not highly regulated.

He’s been trying to get Americans to eat better for decades: “Some people have been moving in the right direction, and the majority of people in the wrong direction. We can see that through the way people eat today versus the way they ate 50 or 60 years ago. Statistically, we definitely moved in the wrong direction. The whole world is getting fat, it’s just that Americans are at the leading edge of that. We’re getting fat, and we’re getting sicker, by the way. I mean, there’s a very high correlation between obesity and Covid deaths. And one of the reasons the United States has had more of a problem with Covid is simply that the comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, they’re just higher in the U.S.

Where companies & governments might do better to bring healthier options: “In some sense, we’re all food addicts. We love things that are rich, that are sweet. We love ice cream. We love popcorn. We love French fried potatoes. And the market is providing people what they want. I don’t think there’s an access problem. I think there’s a market demand problem. People have got to become wiser about their food choices. And if people want different foods, the market will provide it. Whole Foods has opened up stores in inner cities. We’ve opened up stores in poor areas. And we see the choices. It’s less about access and more about people making poor choices, mostly due to ignorance. It’s like a being an alcoholic. People are just not conscious of the fact that they have food addictions and need to do anything about it. And Big Food, the fast food industry, the processed food industry — they all have a lot of skin in the game. They want people to continue to consume more calorie-rich foods.

[From The NY Times]

Throughout the interview, he acknowledges the idea of access, and while he doesn’t use the words “food desert,” that’s what he’s talking about – the idea that in many lower-income communities, there simply isn’t access to fresh food or affording fresh food. But he completely blanks on the reality that for many low-income Americans, the choice is really simple: the higher-fat foods are less expensive. Sure, a lot of people would love to snack on pre-peeled organic oranges at $12 a pop. But people will balk at the prices of the food which is “better for them.” So he’s basically saying that he could put a Whole Foods in every low-income food desert but he couldn’t force people to buy his overpriced organic food – not because it’s overpriced and they can’t afford it, but because THEY make bad choices, because they’re fat, because they are “like alcoholics.” Which is gross. And the whole “fat people are getting Covid” thing is equally appalling. There are plenty of thin people dying of Covid too.

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