The recent Whole Foods craze has everyone, from college student to senior citizen, flocking to Highland Village in a mad frenzy in the hopes of experiencing what all their friends are talking about.
As if overnight, Mississippians are claiming to replace overly-processed foods with locally-grown items. But let us be honest, it is the curiosity of something new that draws people to the overly-crowded supermarket that is Whole Foods, not the desire to be healthier.
After hearing about the Whole Foods opening last month, I, too, was curious and decided to see what all this organic fuss was about. I went during lunchtime on the first Saturday that the store was open, and, boy, was that a mistake!
It took me 20 minutes to find a parking space. After several near collisions and angered drivers later, I walked through the sliding doors and into the large, luminescent building where people were crammed together between displays boasting the freshest of vegetables and advertisements for bar-b-q made right down the street.
Buggies were running into people with every turn, and customers clutched their assortments of premium meats, cheeses, and beverages as they waited in a checkout line that wrapped around the hot foods bar and disappeared towards the back of the store.
Since I came for lunch, I tried to navigate my way toward the ready-to-eat section, a massive crowd blocking the extensive salad bar with more kinds of peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes than I knew existed.
Only about a handful of customers actually seemed to know what they were doing. Everyone else had a dazed expression on their face, as they stared around at all the colorful, supposedly healthy options. They all looked exactly like I did—like they had no idea what was happening.
After running into several carts and people, I settled on the deli line, where the customers before me struggled to pick their specialty bread, meat, and condiments.
“I only came here because my wife made me,” an older gentleman told me after he pointed to a slice of bread he didn’t know the name of. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Neither do I,” I replied, to which the woman behind me responded, “Heck, I don’t know if any of us do.”
I left with an overpriced half a Panini, a side of chicken salad, and a glass-bottled peach tea. The moment I witnessed a man in front of me at the checkout pay $40 for a meal, I wondered if the stuff was worth the chaos I had just endured.
The organic bandwagon is nothing new. Kroger has an organic section, Fresh Market in Renaissance has been going strong for several years as well as Rainbow in Jackson, and farmers’ markets are available all over.
So why are people in the metro-Jackson area suddenly so obsessed with organic? Because everyone else is, or at least seems to be.
Whole Foods is just another trend that everyone will try because all their friends say it is the best place to go. I am not going to lie: the place is quite impressive, and the quality of the food is top-notch, but to be honest, I doubt even half of Whole Foods’ customers even know what organic really means.
Once the novelty wears off, I will be interested to see how people continue to respond. I, for one, plan to only make it a once-in-a-while event, due to the prices being too ridiculous for my tiny college budget.
For now, I think I will stick to my processed, discounted treats. But that Whole Foods chicken salad may have me coming back sooner than I think.
– Abbie Walker, News Editor