Store grading is a dangerous precedent

Articles
November 22, 2010

Store grading is a dangerous precedent

A group of “activists” set out to grade supermarkets in Los Angeles communities early this month, setting another dangerous precedent in the supermarket world – one that will serve only to confuse consumers.

A group of “activists” set out to grade supermarkets in Los Angeles communities early this month, setting another dangerous precedent in the supermarket world – one that will serve only to confuse consumers.
 
A campaign by the Alliance for Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores to bring more supermarkets to South Los Angeles, East Los Angeles and areas of the San Fernando Valley, established a new ‘grading status’ pasting papers that displayed letter grades on stores; a similar approach to the grades given to restaurants in some parts of the U.S. that is based on food safety inspections. But in this case, community members with the Alliance (not licensed and trained State inspectors) carried out standardized surveys of stores across Los Angeles, grading them on service, selection of healthy food, job standards, and accessibility.
 
TLR understands the need and rights of communities to rally for services, but this grading system is just wrong.
 
If the industry is truly in need of earning grades for “services” offered, organizations should be looking toward third-party certification based on established criteria for supermarkets across the country. Supermarkets run the risk of becoming like the packaged goods they stock with a variety of labels and values assigned to them which truly carry no meaning to the consumers and serve only to cause conflict and confusion.
 
The Alliance, a coalition of community and faith and labor leaders, posted the grades in an effort to highlight the issue of ‘food deserts.’ City officials and representatives of the Alliance are continuing to collaborate on a grocery reinvestment ordinance that would provide city oversight of the industry and make supermarket management accountable to larger community interests.
 
The Alliance issued report cards for several grocery chains, including Albertsons, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Ralphs. The chains earned between a C- and B-, an overall final grade that averaged food access, job quality and store quality. Community and faith leaders held a press conference Nov. 11th outside the VONS on Sepulveda in West Los Angeles, to release the grades, and posted them at www.goodgrocerystores.org.
 
As this effort receives more attention we can expect more of these programs to pop up throughout the country; and just as we’ve seen with nutritional labeling, health claims and food safety issues we must insist on clarity, transparency and grading criteria based on substance and not emotion.