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Monday, May 17, 2010

Field Trip: Whole Foods and Safeway - Behind the Scenes

A field trip to the grocery store at first seemed rather silly. I take my kids to the grocery store all the time, after all. They’ve seen all the departments and sampled foods from several of them.

But the behind-the-scenes tours of Safeway and Whole Foods were actually fascinating. Safeway let us go behind those swinging doors, where they store produce and crush boxes for recycling. We got to tramp through the bloody meat cutting area and see the giant mixers in the bakery.

The trip to Whole Foods, though, didn’t take us into any of the back areas. But it was still quite interesting. And the tour guide gave us factoids the kids could rattle off back home.

The kids were horrified to hear that the bakery staff had to arrive at 4 a.m., and the produce workers showed up at 5:30 a.m. The employees preparing the cased foods arrive early as well. “When do you wake up?” the kids asked of the guide. Fortunately for her, she gets to sleep in a little longer!

The favorite stop was the bakery, where the kids got to try Whole Foods’ cookies, and see the ovens that bake 20 loaves a bread at once.

Recycling and reusing was a big part of the tour. The kids learned that food that doesn’t sell at Whole Foods goes to the Samaritan House, which serves 500-600 donated meals from this store and other food venues. Whole Foods also recycles 80% of the store’s waste, whether recycling cardboard or composting food scraps. In fact, this store’s compost is combined with compost from other Whole Foods, and sold to customers for a few dollars a bag.
The kids were excited to visit the cheese shop, where they tasted cheddar and another type as well. They learned that Buffalo Mozarella actually comes from buffalo milk (not cow’s milk), and that many of the cheeses arrive in rounds weighing as much as 200 pounds. Cheddar cheese is not naturally orange. Rather, annatto is added to give it the distinctive orange coloring.

Oh - and if your kids like to cook, Whole Foods offers cooking classes, some of them geared toward kids.


  1. Fun article, thanks. But why not a similar look into what goes on with Safeway? Everything ended up being Wholefoods!

  2. um, that's WFM in San Mateo. But the woman on the left hasn't worked there for quite a while.

    Things that make you go hmmmmm.....

  3. Thanks for the comments. Yes, the Whole Foods tour was San Mateo - the tour was last spring, so it's possible our Whole Foods guide is no longer there.