By Erin O’Donnell, Editor, Kansas Women Bloggers
When we launched Kansas Women Bloggers more than a year ago with the tagline “Gather, Grow, Connect,” we had big dreams for realizing the “connect” part. We want to connect bloggers with each other. And we want to connect our members with opportunities to help them do the second thing: grow.
This week, we entered into a new phase that helps us do both.
Kansas Women Bloggers is proud to announce a new partnership with Whole Foods Market Wichita, which opens Sept. 3. Several of our members have accepted invitations to become blog ambassadors for this international brand, which gives them exclusive access to products and recipe ideas to make their own. We will also feature Whole Foods-flavored posts here on the blog.
From left to right, KSWB members Carolyn Erickson, Cat Poland, Dana Elmore, and Naomi Shapiro with blogger Paige Alexander listen to Whole Foods reps talk about the store’s offerings. See that little silver dish he’s holding? Inside was the most heavenly batch of cocoa-dusted almonds.
This week, our team of ambassadors was the first group to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the store. And let me tell you, it’s foodie heaven, from the bulk spices to the house-made sushi.
If you’re not familiar with the Whole Foods way, here’s the dish. Their mission is to provide fresh food with nothing artificial added, with a focus on food that’s grown and harvested sustainably. There’s a list of more than six dozen ingredients that aren’t allowed in the products they carry.
Here, Shelbi Gustafson of Everyday Mrs and Paige Alexander of Food Fitness by Paige try out some of the natural bulk candies.
People in south-central Kansas have been buzzing about the store’s approaching opening for months. I think it has boosted our community’s ego to have landed a national brand with an upscale image, and a progressive attitude toward food. The store’s presence gives us a sense of validation that Kansans have good taste, too, which we always knew.
But we’re still our practical Midwestern selves. In recognition of that, our gracious hosts from the Whole Foods regional office in Colorado and from the store’s own staff pointed out lots of ways shoppers can make healthier choices and still save money. The 365 Everyday Value brand is an easy way to find affordable natural or organic items in every department, even pet food and personal care. Check it out for yourself next weekend, Sept. 6-7, when everything in the 365 line will be 20 percent off at the Wichita store.
Of course it’s more fun to splurge when you can. Prime cuts of grass-fed beef, fresh seafood flown in six times a week, organic produce that never comes into contact with conventional foods, and artisan breads and cheeses are just the tip of the iceberg.
The prepared foods area really got my mouth watering, too, with an in-house meat smoker and pizza oven (there’s another smoker in the meat department, where they’ll also make their own bacon and sausage). They will have amazing grab-and-go items from the hot bar and made-to-order sandwiches with lots of locally grown ingredients. Plus, the aforementioned sushi. The Whole Foods sushi chef prepped four varieties for us to sample. I have maintained for YEARS that I don’t like sushi, but I went back for seconds of this. NOM.
Speaking of local, the thing I’ve come to love about Whole Foods is the way they promote local and regional farms and other producers. Eating local is more than a fad — it helps our economy, it helps our environment, and it helps you enjoy your food because it tastes better when it didn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get on your table. We’ll be able to get grass-fed beef from cattle that have been raised on Kansas ranges, like Schenker Family Farms in southeast Kansas. Whole Foods will also carry homegrown brands like Reverie Roasters coffee from Wichita, cheese from Jason Wiebe Dairy in Durham, and Chicken Poop Lip Junk.
Something else you’ll notice about Wichita’s story is how much it reflects our city and state’s personality. The company works hard to give each store a unique design that plays up the community’s identity. In Wichita’s case, they chose sunflowers and airplanes. It’s fun to spot all the creative ways they have incorporated our heritage into the decor, like these pendant lights made from old airplane parts:
And this counter next to the coffee and juice bar. That’s a real, repurposed airplane wing inside the clear shelf. (Some inspiration for you DIY bloggers!)
It’s been a real pleasure to get to know some of the team behind this store’s opening, and we’ve been honored by their interest in working with us to promote clean eating, money-saving tips, and family-friendly recipes among our followers. We’re so pleased that they recognize the value bloggers bring to the conversation, and how we can be an integral part of a brand’s marketing strategy.
Each month, Whole Foods ambassador bloggers will get an email detailing the theme of the month with highlighted foods and recipe or serving suggestions, along with info about store events and sales. They will also get gift cards to give away on their blogs.
We can’t wait to see what our talented members will create as a result. You can follow along with the hashtag #WholeFoodsWichita, and please also follow the Wichita store on Twitter at @WFMWichita, find them on Facebook, or find the store closest to you.
We strongly believe this is just the first of many high-profile sponsorship and ambassador opportunities for the active, engaged members of Kansas Women Bloggers. Your blog is your voice and your power — don’t underestimate them! We appreciate all of you who participate in our conversations and who graciously share advice with one another. That’s what connections and community are all about.
Now, here’s our gift to you: a recipe from the Whole Foods kitchen featuring dates from their bulk dried fruit.
Quick Creamy Breakfast Smoothie
Yogurt with live cultures and natural peanut butter form the protein base of this creamy breakfast smoothie. Sweetened with dates and gently spiced with cardamom, we’ve also added flax seed oil for the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids.
2 cups lowfat 2% milk
6 oz plain nonfat yogurt
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
6 dates, pitted and chopped
1 Tbsp rose flower water (optional)
2 tsp flax seed oil
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Place all ingredients in a blender an dpuree until completely blended. If there are small pieces of dates, they are delicious and can be a wonderful treat at the bottom of the glass.