-- Update, including comments from Mississippi Market, at bottom --
Earlier this week, we shared the Seward Co-op's reasons for continuing to sell products made by Eden Foods, a Michigan-based company with Catholic ownership that's under fire for refusing to provide birth control to its employees on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling.
As you'd probably expect, the rationale invoked by at least one other Twin Cities co-op that continues to sell Eden products is largely similar. More specifically, consider how Liz McMann, Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op's consumer affairs manager, responded to Todd Kolod (pictured at top of this post) when Kolod wrote her expressing his concerns about the co-op's decision not to dump Eden.
Here's her email, which Kolod shared with us:
Hi Todd-In a followup conversation, Kolod said he was actually more bothered by what McMann said to him later while he held an anti-Eden sign outside the Mississippi Market at Selby and Dale in St. Paul.
Hope you're doing well! This is definitely a hot topic now, but one that we are leaving open for our shoppers to vote with their dollars. Here is our position on the matter:
Personally, Eden's position is disturbing to many of our shoppers and staff (though not all).
Mississippi Market is committed to educating consumers about food controversies, such as GMO labeling, organic certification and fairly traded goods. Eden Foods decision to sue the Obama administration for exemption from the mandate to cover contraception for its employees under the Affordable Care Act is a health care issue, not a food issue. The co-op believes that everyone has a right and an obligation to vote with their dollars and encourages those that are against Eden's decision to find a product that fits better with their values - we have many other options on our shelves.
Mississippi Market prefers not to take part in product boycotts because we serve a diverse community with a wide range of beliefs. We don't take sides on political issues unless they directly relate to our mission. Rather, we hope that our customers will make educated product choices that work best for them. Check out website to view our product policy: http://msmarket.coop/products/policy/
Your decision to not purchase Eden products is an excellent way to vote with your dollars!
Consumer Affairs Manager
Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op
"Liz McMann came out to me when I was picketing," Kolod says. "She seemed irritated. She said it 'didn't look good.'"
(For more, including an update, click to page two.)
"I was [holding the sign] on a city sidewalk," the retired teacher continues. "I'm 59-year-old and everybody knows that you can protest on the city sidewalk, but she reminded me that it was okay for me to be there. She was being nice but was giving her blessing, told me something I already knew."
Asked how pedestrians and shoppers responded to him while he was protesting -- he also held anti-Eden signs outside a Whole Foods in St. Paul -- Kolod says, "People are appreciative because they don't follow the news as closely as you or I do."
"They sort of know Hobby Lobby, whereas you and I know it inside and out," he continues. "It was, 'Thanks for letting me know, I didn't realize it.' Many people aren't even sure what products Eden Foods sells. It's mostly canned beans and soy milk."
But at the end of our conversation, Kolod returned to the topic of McMann's response to his one-man protest.
"We're on a first-name basis, and she said she was surprised to see me out there and almost shaming me, that it didn't look good for the co-op for me to be standing out front," Kolod says. "She said, 'Well, a lot of other stores sell Eden Foods,' and I said, 'Well, I'm gonna get around to those stores too.'"
:::: UPDATE ::::
Kari Binning, marketing and media manager for Mississippi Market, dropped us a line today to point out that "like Seward and many other co-ops, we continue to monitor the sale of Eden products."
"We are also tracking the number of comments we hear from our member-owners and shoppers regarding this issue," Binning continued, noting that Mississippi Market's GM recently wrote a letter to Michael Potter, president of Eden Foods, "expressing the concerns that some of our member-owners have shared with us about Eden's recent lawsuit."
"In the letter, she also informed Mr. Potter that if sales fall to a point that indicates there is no longer support in our cooperative for their products, we will remove them from our shelves," Binning says.