The Upscale Grocery Chain Helping Kids Grow Gardens and Eat Salad

Sometimes known as "Whole Paycheck," thanks to the bite of its high prices, Whole Foods likes to think of itself as a responsible corporation with a particular interest in healthy eating. Through the Whole Kids Foundation, it is helping to address better eating in schools in several significant ways—by funding school gardens and school salad bars, and by providing nutritional education to teachers.

Since 2011, the Whole Kids Foundation has been working with schools to add these features and programs. In 2013, it provided 647 garden grants and nutrition education for 2,634 teachers. It also collaborated with other nonprofits to purchase 1,263 salad bars for schools. It provides specific grant-writing tips for its garden grant applicants, and collaborates with to do the grantmaking for salad bars. It also provides training for teaching nutrition in schools, cafeteria tools and recipes, and hands-on projects for kids to increase their nutritional awareness.

Whole Kids is one of three foundations of the Whole Foods Company. The other two are the Whole Planet Foundation, which supports micro entrepreneurs around the world, and the newest member of the group, the Whole Cities Foundation, which is "dedicated to supporting efforts that bring fresh, nutritious food and broader access to healthy eating education to underserved communities."

On top of all that, Whole Foods also has a Local Producer Loan Program which provides low-interest loans to small, local producers to help these farmers access capital to buy supplies for their farming.

OK, we admit it—we are impressed. (And yes, I will be talking to my local school committee about whether we could benefit from Whole Foods' largesse.)

But questions are also being asked of Whole Foods in terms of its approach to low-income neighborhoods. It recently installed a new store in one of the most blighted neighborhoods of Detroit, where most people buy their food with SNAP. In light of its stated mission for the Whole Cities Foundation, critics are asking if there isn't more it could do to put its products within financial reach of the poor.