Organic Connection Fresh Food Market, which has now closed it’s doors, was an experiment by Ian Diamond and David Richard to create a store that met Ian and David’s exacting personal standards for food — 98% organic, and a whole lot more. What was the more? Now that Organic Connection closed it’s doors and I have to shop at other stores, it strikes me that the more was the important part. And why write about it now? In hopes that the philosophy of this store manifests in other stores and in our shopping standards. I may be more passionate about the store’s philosophy now than ever.
In my region, Katonah, NY, I now have a choice of stores to shop in, including four natural health food stores within thirteen miles. While I respect the store owners for running these stores and providing some of the products I use regularly, I find these stores (and nearly every health food store I’ve shopped in recent years), sorely lacking for what I’m looking for in terms of the more: truly healthy products, environmental and health awareness, staff education that demands respect, sense of community and a caring, healthy atmosphere.
In these regional stores I have to read every label and shopping has become very time-consuming. I have to check cereal labels to see if the cereals contain refined sugars and non-organic flour. I have to check for ‘bad’ fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, GMO oils which aren’t even listed as such). I have to check with the deli cooks to find out which ingredients are organic. Some of the ‘health food’ stores I’ve been in have one standard for products in the store and an entirely different standard for the deli, or have a deli that is contracted out to another company and therefore no control over ingredients. My sense is that these stores lack an overriding commitment to health.
Organic Connection Fresh Food Market was created with a remarkable standard. (I wish I had written about it sooner.) Now that I am listing all of the efforts the store made toward better health of the customers, staff and the environment, I realize how impressive it was. I hope that other stores will soon follow their lead when it comes to biodegradable deli containers, re-usable bags, non-toxic cleaning agents, healthy lighting, food waste composting, earth-friendly insect control, music and sound effects, half-price organic staff meals, non-toxic paints and flooring and water filtration systems. Each of these considerations were thoughtfully implemented and experimented with to find what worked best.
We’ll start at the front of the store. When you walked in, there was self-serve certified organic coffee and tea available immediately to your right, with organic agave nectar sweetener and milk. The cups were made from recycled paper, no chlorine bleach, natural dyes and were lined with non-toxic wax. The cups were not so easy to find. We went through three manufacturers products before settling on the Eco-Products brand. (Apologies to customers who early-on tried our previous brand of recycled coffee cups with leaky seams!) The coffee and tea was made with reverse osmosis filtered water.
Move from there to the deli. The plastic-looking deli containers were 100% biodegradable and made from corn. (Yes, sir, that container does appear to be melting in front of your eyes. No, it cannot be used for hot food. ) The cutlery 100% biodegradable and made from potato starch. The ‘paper’ plates were made from sugar cane stalk and were compostable. The hot food containers were made the same as the coffee cups. The napkins were recycled and made without chlorine or colorants. Even the straws were made from a biodegradable material and packaged in recycled paper. Some customers brought their own pre-weighed, reusable containers in with them for deli food and bulk items.
To Be Continued