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Some Jamaica Plain residents increase opposition to Whole Foods chain

Posted by Metro Desk  February 22, 2011 05:32 PM

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A week after Whole Foods Market tried to woo the Jamaica Plain community, a group of residents is stepping up its fight against the major chain's impending move into the neighborhood.

The group -- called Whose Food? Whose Community? -- has launched a Facebook page and is planning an anti-Whole Foods rally next Monday in Mozart Park at which it will call for a locally based supermarket to move in.

Rally organizers say Whole Foods is unaffordable to many families and will lead to rising real estate and commercial prices in the Hyde Square community.

“I can see the change of my neighborhood in front of my eyes and I can’t believe it,’’ said Rosaldo Solis, a 38-year resident who was born in Mexico. "I'm thinking about what is going on, and it's not just about food.''

The group includes long-time activists, including some from the neighborhood's Latino community, who decry the demise of the Latin grocer Hi-Lo Foods, whose landlord shut it down to make space for Whole Foods.

Whole Foods, in a recent letter to the community, said it plans to be a good neighbor and will hire 100 people when it opens. It also plans to donate to local nonprofits and stock affordable and Latin foods in its store.

Many in Jamaica Plain welcome a Whole Foods, saying it reflects the growing needs of the neighborhood for fresh, healthy products.

Carlos Schillaci, executive director of the Hyde-Jackson Square Main Streets program, said his organization will continue to support all of the merchants in the business district.

"We are not taking sides in this,'' he said.

But opponents say Whole Foods is a bad fit for Jamaica Plain and Hyde Square especially because the high-end food chain will drive up rents in commercial and residential buildings, leading to an erosion of locally owned businesses.

“We want a store that will cater to the needs of low and moderate income families in the surrounding neighborhoods,'' said Christy Pardew, a member of the group.

The group was formed in the early weeks after the January announcement that Knapp Foods Inc. would lease the Hi-Lo space to Whole Foods, displacing long-time workers and leaving a culinary and cultural void in the Latino community.

Members united out of their frustration at the loss of Hi-Lo and the lack of answers they say they were getting from their elected officials.

"This was moving so fast,'' said Solis, who heads the Latin American Family Culture Network based in Jamaica Plain. "We had to stand up for what we feel is right. We just have to stand up for ourselves."

Some residents passed out leaflets in the neighborhood inviting opponents of the store to a Jamaica Plain Neighborhood meeting at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School on Monday after the rally.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation said it has urged 3,000 members on its e-mail list to attend the meeting and voice their concerns.

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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