Suggestion Book: Give Us Your Suggestions for the Suggestion Book

Greetings and thanks for writing. As usual, suggestions and responses may have been edited for brevity, clarity and/or comedy. In addition, no idea, concept, issue, remark, phrase, description of event, word or word string should be taken seriously. This also applies to the previous sentence.

Only three suggestions came in this month, but two have resulted in long responses. Is it time for an online forum or something to augment the old book? Maybe we can figure out an email-based system? Should we just rely on in-store communications from staff? The Suggestion Book is open to suggestions for its future; contact me at or Karen Plourde, Shuttle editor at

suggestions and responses:

s: “How is our dependence on California-grown produce responsible for the fires raging there? If we are culpable, what if we no longer ate food grown in California and only purchased what was locally available? What would the Co-op’s produce section look like? Thanks!”

r: (Norman) I don’t know how our dependence on California-grown produce contributes to the fires other than the links I’ve heard about between the fires and global warming. I haven’t seen anything pointing out a direct link between California agriculture and global warming that is any different from other industries that use a lot of petroleum products. I have read that large-scale agriculture in California (and most places) involves a lot of fossil fuel energy and agricultural chemicals which can contribute to global warming, so that may be the link. Also, there is the packaging, transportation and refrigeration involved, all of which are mostly fueled by fossil fuels. Some organic agriculture proponents claim organic production methods reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by avoiding fossil
fuel-based fertilizers. Here is an excerpt from the Sept. 16 “Organic Matters” blog:

“The production, transport and use of fossil fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides are the main uses of energy in agriculture. They are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide. Organic production reduces emissions of nitrous oxide by avoiding soil applications of synthetic nitrogen. Most importantly, organic production actually sequesters carbon in the soil, taking it out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the ground, which promotes healthy soils, healthy food and healthy people.”

California grows about a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. Meat and dairy are also big in California. If we switched to only locally-grown produce, there would be somewhat of a paradigm shift — selection and availability would go way down, at least for a while. Prices would go up, because local produce often costs more, often due to production being smaller scale. I suppose if demand for local scaled way up, there would be investment in larger scale production, including greenhouses and hydroponics, so maybe price, availability and selection could eventually improve. There is already a little of this happening with companies like Bright Farms, Gotham Greens and Philly’s own AGreen Farms.

s: “What’s with all the fake meat products? Plant-based and all...seems like there’s a never-ending parade of new companies and products. Plus, I saw an ad in the New York Times from Lightlife calling out Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Care to comment?”

r: (Norman) Yes, would love to comment. There was some bickering in the Times initiated by Lightlife Foods (makers of Tofu Pups, the first vegan hot dog in wide distribution in the early ’80s, I think). The ad had the headline “An Open Letter to Beyond Meat & Impossible Foods.” The ad included this content: “Enough with the hyper-processed ingredients, GMOs, unnecessary additives and fillers, and fake blood.”

Impossible Foods published a response that reads in part: “The campaign leans on spurious arguments typically used by the meat industry: Attack Impossible’s products not based on their indisputable quality, nutrition, wholesomeness or deliciousness, but based on the number of ingredients — a logic-defying concept with zero relevance to health or product quality, intended to distract consumers from the obvious inferiority of Lightlife and Maple Leaf’s products.” OMG, sounds like our politics!

Another plant-based food company, Planterra, responded with their own open letter, and it included these marketing type phrases: “…reimagined protein sources for everyone.” And “… big plans and disruptive innovations…”

From what I’ve seen, most of these new plant-based products are the result of a fair amount of food technology, with main ingredients like pea protein and soy protein. None of these products are what I would call whole foods, or even “natural” foods. In addition, like most of the perishable food sold in the United States, also included is a healthy dose of packaging and energy for refrigeration.

Without much “re-imagining” of protein sources, how about an ad stating that plant-based food like lentils has existed since pre-historic times, is 25% protein, packed with other nutrients and fiber, costs like 50 cents for a decent-size cooked serving, uses little packaging when purchased in bulk, and has an extended shelf life with no refrigeration.

The only disruption needed is recognizing that much of the healthiest food has already existed for centuries, comes from fields not factories, and is not patented. Impossible Foods describing their product as “wholesome” rings an alert to my ears. While a nutritionist might question the wholesomeness of saturated fat, processed oils and leghemoglobin, I take issue with the “whole” in “wholesome.”

Most of the main ingredients in Impossible Burgers are extractives of whole foods — soybeans, coconut, sunflower and potato. Extractives can be created in a few ways, including chemically (solvent extracted) and mechanically (pressing, spinning, etc.). Extractives are no longer whole foods, which is not automatically bad (think olive oil), nor is processing.

We all process food — cooking lentils is processing them. However, there are situations in which processing passes my threshold for rendering food unwholesome, and most of these plant-based meats in the market surpass this level of processing. They’re so far away from being whole, they can’t be described as being wholesome, to the extent the word defines being healthy by staying as close to whole as possible.

s: “When will snow melt be for sale? Even though I’m stuck inside the house, I might want to go out to play in the snow and would need snow melt. My religion doesn’t permit using shovels because they are close relatives to pitchforks, a tool of the devil.”

r: (Norman) Not to worry. With global warming hitting so many places in the world so hard, it’s only natural our area will get its turn. We’re betting on no snow or ice this winter, or maybe ever again, so we’ve discontinued all snow melt products.

Instead, for people who like snow, we’ll be stocking a fake version made from pea protein that has all the attributes of real snow except that it’s not cold and doesn’t melt when heat or salt is applied. You can sprinkle it out when you want snow and sweep it up when you don’t for re-use anytime. It’s pet and concrete safe, stays where applied, and no two flakes are alike.