The Co-op Board hosted a lively Member Forum Sept. 17 on the Eden Foods controversy in particular and Weavers Way buying policies in general with Norman Weiss, Weavers Way purchasing manager, providing context. Read about it in the October Shuttle. No decision was taken either for or against carrying Eden products, and in fact, none was anticipated. Rather, amid the various views aired, it was made clear that members want more information about who, or what, is behind the products on the shelves, so they can make informed decisions. The name "Nestle" came up frequently as a producer Weavers Way shoppers might choose to skip — if they only had enough information about all the brands the Swiss food giant owns.
Check out the August Shuttle and read below for some background. You can also read local media coverage in the Inquirer and the Chestnut Hill Local, and letters on the subject from members are in the October and September Shuttles. Ultimately, the Board announced at the Fall General Membership meeting (Oct. 26) that the Co-op was not going to make the decision for its members, and declined to support a boycott. (Read the full text of Board President Jeremy Thomas' report to the meeting here.)
Here's the background:
In the wake of the Supreme Court's June 30 ruling on the Hobby Lobby case (strictly speaking, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby), astute Weavers Way members have re-raised an issue that came up last year, namely that the guy who owns Eden Foods, beloved maker of organic EdenSoy soymilk and other packaged organic food, also claims religious scruples about paying for employees' birth control. (He's Catholic.)
In 2013, when Eden first sued the federal goverment over contraceptive coverage, Weavers Way purchasing manager Norman Weiss devoted part of his June 2013 Shuttle column to the issue. One development since then: Silk is no longer wholly owned by Dean. What Norman said then, and basically says in the August 2014 Shuttle, is that it's complicated: Eden adheres to the highest organic principles, pushes hard for consumer-friendly food labeling and remains independent when its competitors have been swallowed up by multinationals. Norman also recommends this more recent article published by New Hope 360, a healthy foods trade publication.
Way back last year, we also polled Weavers Way members, and Membership Coordinator Jonathan Leeds reported on the result in the July 2013 Shuttle. To summarize, 82 percent of those who took the poll said their buying decisions are affected by the views of manufacturers and other companies; 64 percent felt strongly about the issue. However, fewer than half thought the Co-op should take an official stand.
So it's complicated. (That's what Norman says, I believe it and that settles it.) In the meantime, we continue to carry Eden products. Feel free to vote with your wallet. And be there for the discussion September 17!
— Mary Sweeten, Shuttle editor