Whole Foods Pulls A Major Stunt In Baltimore

Photo: Courtesy of Whole Foods.
Whole Foods has come under fire for pulling what many see as a tone-deaf publicity stunt (at best). Yesterday, a local Baltimore branch began handing out free lunch to National Guard soldiers patrolling the city. They uploaded this cheery shot to Facebook and Instagram with a caption thanking, "the men and women keeping Baltimore safe."

Baltimore has been embroiled in days of protests and rioting since the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man who died of a spinal injury while in police custody. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency on Monday night and by Tuesday, the city was occupied by 1,700 troops. Meanwhile, many businesses, government bodies, and all public schools were closed. That means the estimated 84% of Baltimore public school children who get free or reduced-price school meals went without lunch yesterday. But, the National Guard got organic turkey sandwiches. 

It's not merely this dichotomy that upset social media users when Whole Foods uploaded the photo. The upbeat caption alone set Twitter ablaze with questions about who, exactly, these troops were keeping Baltimore safe for (or from). While the riots have elicited a polarized response across the media, a photo like this leaves little room for doubt about what side Whole Foods is on. However, as  soon as the backlash began, the company instantly deleted the photo from social media accounts, saying, "it did not accurately reflect all our local stores are doing to feed people across this city, especially children."

Right now, the Whole Foods Twitter account is jammed with dozens of identical responses to the outrage. While they have no further comment on the photo itself, they insist they are partnering with local Baltimore organizations to set up lunch and snack donations. If so, great. As one Twitter user (himself a serviceman) pointed out, "The National Guard already has a supply system for food. The citizens of Baltimore could probably use your help more."
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