Shopping for Truth at Trader Joe's
We participated in "Shopping for Truth" at Trader Joe's yesterday in Portland, ME with The Conscious Caravan and our family and kids in tow. We didn't dress up in hazmat suits, nor did we bring caution tape, but we were on an Educational Mission to ask them to verify their Non-GMO claim on their Trader Joe's brand. I started off telling the kids we were going on a treasure hunt to find foods that were safe to eat, and to look for either Non-GMO Project Verified, or USDA Certified Organic. They could all pick out a snack and then we would find out what was safe and what was not. Simple enough, right? Educating our next generation on what is in our foods. They gravitated to the fruit at first, and we sorted over mostly conventionally grown produce, only to realize there was only one lone island with Organics, limited selection indeed. Then, they went for the dried fruit and granola and crackers. Normal everyday healthy fare for kids, right? So it seemed.
When our baskets were full we went to the front to talk with a Customer Service Rep who claimed to be a "manager" and when asked if she could help us determine what had GMO's in them and what did not, she wasn't sure. She said that the Trader Joe's brand label was Non-GMO, that Trader Joe's has always been committed to sourcing Non-GMO ingredients for their products. And, that she thought the third party certification and affidavits were all public record. She said we were welcome to call Headquarters and ask them where we could find these public records, and that there 'might' be something on the website about it, but she really didn't know, and she certainly couldn't tell us what was truly safe from GMO's. Appreciated her honesty, and that of the second guy who helped us sort through our basket and put back all of the foods that were TJ's brand. After choosing several brand items, we told them we could not trust them unless they could show us proof of Non-GMO certification. As an employee, he understood, stood behind our concern, and wanted his company to come out and show proof, too. So, we basically shopped, and then un-shopped. Our four year old even helped us put the foods back. She gets it. She understood she couldn't have the snack she picked out because it could potentially have GMO's in it. Sad, to say to a 4 year old that these foods are unsafe, but she gets it. Well, shouldn't the employees and management at Trader Joe's get it, too?
Turns out the first "manager" wasn't really a manager, or had a manager above her, because as we were talking about the foods we had to return and discussing GMO's and the Trader Joe's brand in the aisle with other customers all around us, another "manager" appeared. She listened to what we had to say about seeking verification that their brand name items were truly Non-GMO, and listened to our desire as a family, as a group of families out here educating people on how to shop Non-GMO, for TJ's to show proof so we would continue shopping with them. That we wanted them to reach out to the Non-GMO Project for verification. That we were out here representing the thousands of families that we connect with on the road that want to know what's in our foods, and where is safe to shop. We get asked all the time where is left that's safe to shop, and we only share what we know is safe, through and through, what we trust with our own kids. Sadly, the truth we found out today at Trader Joe's is that they don't want us to know the truth.
She basically nodded and listened and then said that Trader Joe's does not disclose any of that information to the public, that the other "manager" we talked to was misinformed and that none of that info is public record. She then made sure we checked out with our couple of things that were Non-GMO, and asked that we not take any photos in the store or hand out any literature to customers. Outside, as my hubby took the kids back to the Eco Womb to have a snack, I stayed behind to try and connect with anyone interested and wanting to know more about how to shop Non-GMO. I was asked to leave the front of the store, but that I could be in the parking lot. I was only talking to people about Non-GMO's, I wasn't doing street theater, I didn't have a megaphone. But, when it seems there is something to hide, they sure don't want even a mom on a mission to be around. Then, as I was walking alone in the parking lot, one mom talking to other moms, interacting with people that were interested in learning more about Non-GMO's and encouraging people to ask Trader Joe's to show proof they were verified, up comes said manager, now telling me I had to leave the parking lot. But, she said, I could be on the sidewalk on the main road, in the rain, where of course there were no customers. She then informed me that the Eco Womb Tour Bus was in a towable zone. Um, yeah right. We shopped in your store, and also bought a filter for our veggie system at the West Marine next door, so as patronizing customers I do not see how we could be towed.
I shared with her that we want to support Trader Joe's, that we want to tell people that they are safe, we just want proof. It wasn't us against them, it was us wanting to work together. We know a lot of people that shop at Trader Joe's all the time, and now they are on the fence about trusting them. We want to save TJ's customers from leaving. So, she left well enough alone, and I walked away knowing that we connected with people, we shared the message, we got some notice, and we did it in a proactive way that showed as a mom, with kids in tow, that we have the right to know what is in our food!!!!
It was an educational experience for our family, explaining how to read ingredients and how to look for the Non-GMO label. Their employees were very interested and wanting TJ's to show proof, just not sure management will get there. I think it is important to call them out, though. We shop at local farmer's markets and buy ALL organic and Non-GMO, but a lot of people shop here under the premise that their brand is Non-GMO and they are not showing proof of that! We educate on how to shop Non-GMO to thousands of families and have been asked where is safe to shop. We went today to find out and to educate customers on making sure they buy Non-GMO. We also went so TJ's knows that their customers want them to verify their food sources and want to eat safe products. Only way to create change is to vote with your fork and your dollar, and also speak up, ask questions, let them know what the people want, that we have the right to know what is in our foods. It does make a difference!
For photos of our day "Shopping for Truth" see our event gallery at http://www.ecowomb.com/gallery/shopping-for-truth-at-trader-joes/