“I believe a movement has started; a shift in how people think about their food and the type of food they are eating.” – Diana Harvey at Nature’s Grocers by Vitamin Cottage.
I can say that I’m truly proud to work for a company as fantastic as Natural Grocers. Natural Grocers is a family-owned, chain of health food stores that strives to have the highest standards in the market. Not only do we have the highest standards, we also try to have the most affordable prices compared to other health food grocery stores. Being a family run company, we still hold fast to our founding principles. In nearly every store a nutritional health coach (NHC) gives lectures and cooking demonstrations (if the store has a kitchen), provides customers with informational handouts if requested, and is available for coaching sessions where they sit down with the customer one-on-one to discuss their health goals. All of these services are free. The NHCs will also present at schools, for clubs, and for other groups completely free of charge. I shadowed our NHC, Marshall, for a partial day and will shadow him again this week. I really enjoyed observing his coaching sessions and I can see myself doing something like that in the future. Other ways we live up to our founding principles are by hiring at a living wage (above minimum wage), hiring mostly from the company to fill home office positions, phasing out all confinement dairy products by April 2015, and other such quality standards.
I work in the home office in Lakewood, CO as the nutrition education intern. We currently have 92 stores and open about one a month. In 2015 we will be opening 18 stores in one year! I have a fantastic boss named Karen Falbo, who is the Nutrition Education Department Manager. Karen plans events, teaches cooking demos at grand opening events, runs special events (Paleo brunches, VIP brunches, etc), and does many other things I can’t even keep track of. She’s one of the busiest people at the home office! Because she’s so busy I also work closely with Kim Hightower, the director of Social Media and Creative Support (and the one showing off our awesome vegetable artwork). I call her the social media lady. A few times a week I sit in her office with her, writing Facebook posts for the Natural Grocers page and getting posts approved by her. She has fantastic marketing skills and really knows how to advertise and get people interested in what we’re promoting. We post articles, recipes, political information, specials and deals we are running, and posts about upcoming holidays. Our Facebook page can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/NaturalGrocers
Other than working on Facebook with Kim, I also help with office work (sorting mail, shopping, printing and filing, class corrections on the database, preparing for meetings, and so on), make informational handouts for cooking demos and lectures, do research and review scientific papers written by our Nutrition Education Specialist Jonathan (the current topic we’re working on is Turmeric and its active chemical Curcumin), and help out departments that need help — like on production day when we have thousands of tiny grocery store price signs to print, cut and ship. I enjoy the variety of things I get to do. My favorite thing to do is help with events!
During my first week of work I helped cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner with two other women (Amy is the one holding the pie). We cooked for an entire work day, packed it up, and brought it to a house the next day. We then set up all the food, brought in models, and photographed the people eating Thanksgiving dinner together. I really loved helping to set up the food and arranging the dishes of food to make it look perfect. I even got to do the flower arrangement myself! Afterwards we all sat down together to eat because there was nothing else to do with all of that great food! It was a really fun day to help with.
Another fun event was the Paleo Bruch on November 1st. This was a private event won at a Breast Cancer gala auction. It was a Paleo brunch, lecture and cooking demonstration for 12, led by Karen. During these events I help set up, cook, serve our guests, and clean up. One of the attendees at this event was even an Antioch alum. Antiochians really are everywhere!
The last event I helped with was an almond flour cooking class called Tea Time Decadence. We made pumpkin pie muffins with a coconut cream topping, onion garlic crackers, and two types of tea. This was during a gluten-free tasting fair at the new store in Golden, CO. Karen and I led the cooking demonstration and it turned out to be a lot of fun!
It was a full house and everyone had lots of questions! During the cooking demo Karen also gave an in-depth lecture on the Paleo diet plan, the benefits and drawbacks to eating almonds, her background and why she eats the way she does, and the basics of gluten-free and grain-free baking. I’m happy anytime I get to cook or bake so these events are always really fun to help with.
Our store also does charity events like the Shoporama for Food Bank of the Rockies that involved local news teams doing a 3 minute shopping race to buy a certain dollar amount of food without going over. There were many rules to make it challenging and only one team spent less that the magic number, which was something like $178.12. Each of the four news teams brought a camera man or photographer with them and it was a great promotional event for the store. We try to host fun events that involve the community; and everyone there really did have a lot of fun. I was laughing the whole time watching the news teams running around frantic trying to pick out items costing less than $3 each, no more than three of each kind, no perishable items, and so on. It turned out to be a really good time and the winners even got to take home a trophy!
Because our store is dedicated to keeping high standards and because I work with incredibly intelligent people, I have learned a huge amount about the health food industry and healthy living. We genuinely care about the food we carry on our shelves and the people who buy it. We work with local farmers and businesses to ensure our customers will be getting the highest quality product possible. The picture of the chickens is from Cottonwood Creek Farms. We partner with them and they provide amazing eggs for us. The chickens are pen-free and not given antibiotics, vaccines, wormers, or hormones. Their feed is locally sourced and they are currently looking for a local soy-free alternative. They even have an open door policy so anyone can visit the farm and see how the chickens are raised. Our media team visited their farm to produce a video about them. You can find the video on our site: http://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-info/blog/pink-eggs-are-back-no-pens-happy-hens-check-your-local-store-today
I believe a movement has started; a shift in how people think about their food and the type of food they are eating. Colorado seems to be pretty progressive. People here just voted on Proposition 105, a bill that would have required companies to label whether or not their product contains GMOs. Although the bill didn’t pass it got people talking about GMOs and why they are concerning. We posted a lot about it on our Facebook page, the office was constantly bubbling with the phrase “It’s our right to know,” and hopefully the average person learned more about what GMOs are and the potential risks that come from consuming them. I figure it’s a step in the right direction. Measure 92 was voted on in Oregon, which was a similar piece of legislation about GMO labeling. It also failed to pass with a 50.5% no vote.
Learning about GMOs is just one of the many topics I have been exposed to at work. I have learned more about farming practices (labeling, grass-fed, free-range, organic produce, etc), the Paleo/Ancestral diet and what humans biologically need to eat to stay healthy, macro- and micro-nutrients, how various vitamins and supplements benefit the body, food additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and much more. The people I work with are truly a wealth of knowledge. Karen and Kim have been amazing in answering all of my questions, suggesting resources, and giving and lending me books and documentaries to study. Our company is so dedicated to education, I’m allowed to spend two of my work hours per week reading if I so choose.
Since day one I have felt comfortable working for this company. I agree with everything we stand and fight for. It really has changed my life. On my first day of work my boss Karen lent the documentary In Search of the Perfect Human Diet to me. I was so excited, I watched it that night and my mind was blown. It really started from there, and from talking to Karen. It really started me off on a health journey. I changed my diet and started taking a few supplements. And with my job I’m lucky enough to be able to do research every day! I am constantly reading articles and finding the answers to the questions our customers ask on our Facebook page. I feel that this job has changed the way I think about the food industry and health food, and has taught me the right way to eat for my body; and that is truly priceless. The media is saturated with false nutrition information and one of the things we do at Natural Grocers is help dispel those myths. I can really see myself working in this field someday. I’ve been talking to many people at the company about their chosen educational paths and ideas for my future. I really feel that I fit in well here and I’m becoming even more passionate about this line of work. It meshes well with my interests in alternative medicine, herbal medicine, naturopathy, doing all we can to restore the planet, reforming the ways we produce food (including political legislation), supporting organic farming, and so much more. It was definitely a good decision to choose this co-op! I feel like I’m one step closer to the path I’m supposed to take in my life.