Whole Foods will stop selling products made using a prison labor program after a protest at one of its stores in Texas. The company said the products should be out of its stores by April 2016, if not sooner. Whole Foods said it has sold tilapia, trout, and goat cheese produced through a Colorado inmate program at some stores since at least 2011. Michael Silverman, a Whole Foods spokesman, said the company had sourced the products because the program was a way to "help people get back on their feet and eventually become contributing members of society." But he said the company decided to end the practice because some customers were uncomfortable with it.
The tilapia, trout, and cheese in question come through Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of Colorado's department of corrections. Dennis Dunsmoor, director of the program, said inmates who volunteer for the program are paid 74 cents to $4 a day, and are eligible for performance bonuses. Michael Allen, a prison reform advocate, said Whole Foods informed him of its change in policy after he organized a protest at one of the company's stores in Houston this weekend. Although other companies sell products made by inmates, Allen said he thought it was hypocritical of Whole Foods to do so. "They say they care about the community, but they're enhancing their profit off of poor people," Allen said, noting the pay that inmates receive for such work. (Read more Whole Foods stories.)