Everyone needs groceries but not everyone has the time to research, locate and utilize the best grocery options. Fortunately, there is Whole Foods Market. They make finding healthy, ethical and sustainable grocery options easy.

Otto Leuschel is just as passionate about Whole Foods Market as he was when he began working for the company eighteen years ago. Photo courtesy: Whole Foods Market.

Since its founding in 1980, Whole Foods Market has strived to partner with stakeholders to support strong, healthy communities. Since its opening one year ago, Whole Foods Market Bellingham has been strengthening our local community through its commitment to highlighting local producers, fostering community partnerships and providing excellent customer service.

Supporting Local Producers

“We’re in a producer-heavy community,” shared Marketing and Community Liaison, Olivia Yates. “Our local forager worked to get some great, hyper-local folks in here.”

One local business that made the cut is Bellingham-based Sea Witch Botanicals. “Everyone I dealt with from the head of the corporate department to the Bellingham store associates was so excited about our products and eager to get them in the store,” shared Sea Witch Cultural Attaché, Cat Carnell. “We’ve been treated so well and have been so appreciated. It was surprising to find in a huge corporation.”

Tierra Smith enjoys working at Whole Foods Market. Photo credit: Dondi Tondro-Smith.

The opportunity to grow their business through vending at Whole Foods Market Bellingham means a lot to small producers like Sea Witch Botanicals who were discovered by Regional Local Forager, Denise Breyley. “She’s like a fairy godmother from Sleeping Beauty,” Carnell said of Breyley.

While Whole Foods Market is a large company, their local stores develop close relationships with their partners. These close relationships allow small producers to gradually grow their operation with the support of the store and local community. Together they offer high-quality, socially responsible goods.

Investing in the Community through Nonprofit Partnerships

“I love what Whole Foods Market has done to support the Bellingham School District,” shared Ashley Wong, Team Member Services. Photo courtesy: Whole Foods Market.

May marks the one-year anniversary of Whole Foods Market Bellingham. While one year is a relatively short amount of time, the team at Whole Foods has already integrated themselves into the community through their nonprofit foundations Whole Kids Foundation, Whole Cities Foundation and Whole Planet Foundation.

In April, Whole Kids Foundation announced a $53,000 grant to Bellingham Public Schools. This grant follows last year’s $120,000 grant to establish a healthier school meal program. The Whole Kids Foundation has also awarded 18 edible education school garden grants in the Bellingham Schools District, one in the Lummi Nation School, over the past five years.

“I love what Whole Foods Market has done to support the Bellingham School District,” shared Ashley Wong, Team Member Services. The grant, known as the School Food Support Initiative, is a two-year program being used by the school district to establish a healthier school meal program. Studies show that healthier school meals could raise student achievement by four percentile points on average.

Happy Team Members Mean Excellent Customer Service

Becky Gutierrez loves working for Whole Foods Market because it supports her organic and natural lifestyle. Photo courtesy: Whole Foods Market.

Their commitment to the community is part of what makes team members so proud to work for Whole Foods Market Bellingham. “Whether it’s giving through the Whole Kids Foundation to support healthy eating in local schools, five percent days or our rotating quarterly bag refund partners, I am proud to work for a company that is dedicated to giving back,” shared Customer Service Associate Team Leader, Shana Davis. “We are truly lucky to be part of the Bellingham community!”

Team member investment in the community is an important part of Whole Foods Market’s recipe for providing excellent customer service. The rest lies in taking good care of their staff and offering opportunities for team members to grow within the company while maintaining important work-life balance. Staff turnover is low, so the majority of the team who helped open the store are still there.

“I’m proud to have opened the store in Bellingham and to be celebrating one year of business in this fantastic community,” shared Yates. “Whole Foods Market strives to bring health and happiness to team members and the community, alike. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I feel so lucky to be in a role where I get to work so closely with our incredible community and help individuals, businesses and nonprofits spread the goodness that healthy, sustainable food uniquely offers to a community.”

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I feel so lucky to be in a role where I get to work so closely with our incredible community,” shared Whole Foods Bellingham’s Marketing and Community Relations Liaison, Olivia Yates. Photo courtesy: Whole Foods Market.

“Whole Foods Market is a fantastic company,” shared Store Team Leader, Otto H. Leuschel. “I have been here 18 years and I love the team member culture of our company. We have a group of team members in the Bellingham store that comprise an enjoyable and supportive community. As Whole Foods Market is a mission-driven company, I am proud that we live up to our stated goals and values.”

Whole Foods Market supports the community through giving back. Their happy and knowledgeable team members can help any shopper navigate their high-quality, locally sourced products. Patrons can find more than 30 Whatcom and Skagit County producers on the shelves. See for yourself by stopping into the store, located at 1030 Lakeway Drive in Bellingham. For more information visit the Whole Foods Market Bellingham website.

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