Whole Foods Co-op
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2021 Owner Election

Help shape our Co-op and the community in a big way. Highlights on the ballot include four open seats in the Whole Foods Co-op Board of Directors and an opportunity to select GIVE Round Up recipients for 2022. Cast your vote and play a role in guiding Co-op leadership and our impact on the community – it really makes a difference!


Your Elector ID is your owner number and your Password is the last name of the primary co-op owner. Please call 218-728-0884 with any questions. This information is also in your Fall 2021 Garbanzo Gazette. Voting is open until 9pm on Thursday, October 21st.

NOTE: Paper ballot packets will be available at customer service (or can be mailed, if requested via phone). A completed packet includes the 2021 Election Guide, a paper ballot, two envelopes and very specific instructions for Owners using paper ballots to follow so that we can verify voter eligibility and ensure anonymity of the vote.


Four Whole Foods Co-op Board Member seats are up for election. Learn more about our candidates below and vote by October 21st.

Please provide a brief statement of introduction/ bio My name is Vidar Sanchez, I’m a father, avid cook, a would-be gardener, civil engineer, part time thrill seeker, and hopeful Whole Foods Co-op board member. I come seeking your support to join the board as a food uberfan and a firm believer in the cooperative model. The values that I’ll bring were shaped by years spent on my parent’s small scale organic farm in northern New Mexico. There I learned the importance of resourcefulness in tackling the bevy of challenges faced on the daily; the importance of diversifying crops to reduce the financial impact of plagues, droughts, or severe storms; and perhaps most importantly it taught me to appreciate food for the effort that it requires to produce, and to see it for the gift that it is.

Why would you like to serve on the Board of Directors of Whole Foods Co-op? I’d like to serve on the Board of Directors for several reason, but mainly because:

1. I believe my unique life’s experience would bring an interesting perspective to the board.
2. I’d like to help guide the co-op on a path to greater environmental sustainability and justice through education and outreach and to engage communities that have traditionally been overlooked by conventional grocery stores.
3. I feel the need to become more personally engaged with my community and to give back by promoting ideas and causes that help grow access to healthy foods.

Describe any volunteer or paid experiences relevant to your service as a Co-op Board member. What skills or experience will you bring to this Board?   I’ve had a life long relationship with food and food production. I first got my hands dirty on the old family farm. I witnessed the progression from seed to plant to fruit and/or back to seed. After leaving home, I worked in the produce department at Albuquerque NM’s flagship Co-op for five years, holding various positions culminating in Department Manager. I was later recruited by a local farmer to manage the distribution of NM’s largest farm to table operation. While my professional pursuits have since taken me away from food production, my heart and soul are deeply rooted in the places that feed me.

What opportunities and challenges do you see in the future for Whole Foods Co-op?  I see two significant challenges faced by the Whole Foods Co-op as well as Co-ops across the country. First, how to prepare for the impacts of climate change and how to reinforce the local food systems to make them more resilient in the face of a changing world. Second, how to make food more accessible to people of all walks of life. Clean/healthy food must be seen as a right for all to enjoy. The City of Duluth with its access to clean and plentiful water is favorably positioned to face many of these challenges, it is the Co-op’s Board of Directors’ responsibility to keep an eye on the horizon and steer the ship in the direction we want it to go.

Please provide a brief statement of introduction/ bio  I’m Robin Pestalozzi (she/her pronouns), born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota. Returning to Duluth as a young professional created a deep appreciation within me for this place and the people who live here. My passion for positive social change and community engagement grew during my undergraduate studies at UMD in Spanish and Sociology, and I’ve developed a deeper focus on community development with a master’s degree in Non-profit Management from Regis University in Denver, CO. In my professional life, I am a Development Director with the Essentia Health Foundation — facilitating resources for initiatives throughout our healthcare system to make a healthy difference for patients and families. When I’m not working, you can find me in our garden or on the trails by our house with my partner Stephen and our toddler, Lev.

Why would you like to serve on the Board of Directors of Whole Foods Co-op? The Whole Foods Co-op’s constant work towards a more robust local, sustainable food system, and the prioritization of equity, diversity and inclusion are just a few reasons that I’d like to serve as a board member for the Whole Foods Co-op (WFC). As a shopper at the Co-op, I appreciate the healthy, local, and international food options it offers. In addition to food options, it’s important to me that our community has equitable and affordable access to healthy food. I’m impressed by the Co-op’s ability to give back through the Round-Up program, as well educational classes. As a Whole Food Co-op Board Member, I’d appreciate the opportunity to represent all community members, shoppers, and owners by seeking out and listening to owner, employee & community feedback, as well as by acting strategically for the future of our Whole Foods Co-op.

Describe any volunteer or paid experiences relevant to your service as a Co-op Board member. What skills or experience will you bring to this Board? My professional and volunteer experiences have all been based around the health and well-being of others— including the administrative side of providing basic healthcare services for women, and more recently organizing valuable resources for much needed housing and healthcare developments in our community. I’ve served on the Board of Directors for a local service club, and I’m currently a board member of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, serving since 2016. My previous board experience with local organizations and professional experiences engaging with community stakeholders demonstrate my ability to be a leader with proven qualities of thinking strategically, actively listening and learning, and relating to diverse communities. These are skills and strengths that I would bring to the WFC as a board member.

What opportunities and challenges do you see in the future for Whole Foods Co-op?  The global Covid-19 pandemic has created immense opportunities and challenges for everyone. Many consumers have taken advantage of the convenience of online shopping, while local businesses have had to be creative in keeping business alive. I’m impressed with the Whole Food Co-op’s ability to serve customers and owners in a safe and effective way throughout the inevitable challenges of the pandemic. I believe these challenges will continue to spark a need for creativity and adaptability to meet the needs of customers.

Other comments:  Rumor has it, my husband Stephen and I first met at the Whole Foods Co-op when we were toddlers, our parents being a part of the same food buying club. Although neither of us remember meeting as two year old’s, it has been formative to hear our families share stories of food buying clubs- buying in bulk together and splitting amongst families as an affordable way to access organic food options. I feel grateful for the communities that have made the co-op what it is today, as well as for those working towards the future.

Please provide a brief statement of introduction/ bio My name is LeAnn Littlewolf (she/her) and I have been shopping at the WFC since 1995 when I first moved to Duluth. I became a member in 2011. I have worked for 30 years in nonprofit, community organizing, and advocacy roles, working for social change. I have a commitment to cultural and community-based strategies, equity, and Seventh Generation principles. I am from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and I belong to the Wolf Clan. I love being here in Duluth with my son, Wakik, and my partner, Vinson, and our dog Fenris. We love Lake Superior, all the local rivers and great places to walk & hike. I’m passionate about local foods & Indigenous foods.

Why would you like to serve on the Board of Directors of Whole Foods Co-op?  I have enjoyed being a member owner and always feel grateful to the board members who give their time & energy to move our Whole Foods Co-op forward. Over the years, I have watched WFC go through incredible growth and offer new direction and vision to our whole community. I am excited to be a part of this kind of energy and new possibilities that gets shared across our membership. I am also excited to learn more deeply about cooperative principles in action and how to keep cooperative values alive.

Describe any volunteer or paid experiences relevant to your service as a Co-op Board member. What skills or experience will you bring to this Board?  I serve on three boards right now, with TakeAction MN, Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance, and Native Sun. These three organizations operate with cooperative and justice-focused approaches and are spaces where I continuously learn. I worked at the American Indian Community Housing Organization as the Economic Development Director, working with a leadership team on a food sovereignty initiative and social enterprise start-ups. I spent time learning about local foods, organic farming, Indigenous food systems and practices, and renewable energy. I am committed to racial and social justice and I bring an equity mindset. One of my most important skills I gained from spending time with my Grandma. She often took me with her to visit other elders and I learned to listen and be present. I think this is an essential skill so we can learn from others and think deeply together while valuing each other’s company. Being in relationship is what moves our community forward.

What opportunities and challenges do you see in the future for Whole Foods Co-op?  I see opportunities to expand access to local food, both in who grows or produces local food, and also who can enjoy those foods. It’s exciting to already see this happening and looking forward to see more creative expansion of local foods. We need to move to net zero carbon emissions. With two retail grocery stores, WFC will need to build upon practices & strategies already in place and find new strategies. With the experience of the pandemic and escalating climate change events, we are challenged to adapt to the unexpected and to think and act cohesively as a committed community. Workers are expressing different needs and our challenge will be how we engage with our valued workers and workforce changes. We have a great opportunity to learn from different perspectives as we take on these challenges.

Other comments:  I grew up eating mostly highly-processed foods. It took me many years to educate myself about what good food is and what a difference it makes on so many levels. I tried new foods and found the massive difference in food that was organic and local. I went through a process to understand why high quality foods matter and I love sharing great food with others. I love going to the Whole Foods Co-op and running into friends, seeing WFC staff, and checking out new food items. When I would have crazy busy work days, the WFC Co-op saved me! I could get healthy food that made me feel great. Last thing…I rep my WFC hoodie everywhere! So many people ask if I work at WFC and I smile & say, “No I just love my Co-op.”

Please provide a brief statement of introduction/ bio  Sarah Kate Erickson (she/her) is an educator, exhibit developer, grant writer and non-profit administrator. She has worked around the country for nature centers, schools and museum spaces. Sarah earned a B.A. in Biology from Smith College and a Masters in Environmental Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Sarah has applied her academic and leadership skills toward building and delivering impactful educational programming, museum exhibits and community initiatives in the Duluth area since 2004. Her next chapter includes strengthening her leadership and management skills through study and practice in the MBA program at The College of St. Scholastica. Sarah volunteers on the WDSE/WRPT board of directors and as a volunteer exhibit developer with the Duluth Children’s Museum. She lives in Duluth with her husband and two children, where she enjoys lap swimming, painting and outdoor recreation. Sarah’s professional goals include nurturing inclusive, empathetic and innovative processes within non-profit organizations to improve function, quality of life and mission impact.

Why would you like to serve on the Board of Directors of Whole Foods Co-op?  I am interested in supporting an organization that does great work in the community – from addressing food insecurity, to investing in sustainable agriculture, to serving as a model for collaboration among community partners, the board and staff. I look forward to learning more about food systems in our region, the cooperative model, and how we can all work together to make the region a thriving and healthy place for all people. The Co-op is an incredible hub for more than just delicious food. It is a gathering place, an educational resource, and an employer of local talent. It is an exciting prospect to be a part of encouraging this important work as a board member.

Describe any volunteer or paid experiences relevant to your service as a Co-op Board member. What skills or experience will you bring to this Board? I currently serve on the WDSE/WRPT board of directors, previously served on the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education board of directors and have experience reporting to a non-profit board of directors at Great Lakes Aquarium. As an educator, manager and non-profit administrator, I bring a host of community connections, experience in building relationships with the public and a team, and an interest in learning about the Co-op business model to the board. I have experience with budgeting, strategic planning, personnel evaluation and project management. As the parent of a child with food allergies, I understand the challenge of finding foods with simple and clearly labeled ingredients that are safe and delicious to eat.

What opportunities and challenges do you see in the future for Whole Foods Co-op?  There are opportunities in any business or organization to improve systems and reach. The Co-op can continue to support equitable food access, be a role model for employee and owner engagement, and grow the customer base. Some of the challenges that face the Co-op are lower price points at other retailers, community perception of value and investing strategically in products and services to benefit the business, vendors and consumers.

Other comments:  I am proud to be a Co-op owner and support the values the organization upholds. I am also proud of the way that the Co-op shows up in the community.


This year, Co-op Owners will help us select GIVE Round Up recipients that are committed to Environmental Stewardship, Equity and Diversity, Food Access, and the Local Food Economy. In 2022, we expect to raise tens of thousands of dollars through this program for non-profits in need. We’re excited for Co-op Owners to be a part of the process!

Environmental Stewardship 

Hartley Nature Center

Using our expansive ecological and biological diversity to teach the region about sustainable and responsible land stewardship and water protection. 

  • We provide an array of recreational, educational, and volunteer opportunities, as well as welcoming gateway and educational services to improve and augment users’ experiences, including interpretive displays and signage, ski, snowshoe and other equipment rental, maps and trail guides, on-site naturalists, and other amenities. The parks’ array of recreational opportunities, coupled with the nature center’s suite of services, breaks down barriers to participation and helps all ages and skill levels to get outside and gain a deeper connection with wild places. 

Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity 

Repairing 18 homes for lower-income families in 2021 and reducing the environmental footprint of new construction.  

  • Our primary goals are to increase the stock of quality housing for lower-income community members, improve the condition of existing housing for those members (especially elders, single-parent families, veterans, families with disabilities, and other homeowners), and enhance community and neighborhood environments for all area residents. In 2021 we plan to repair 18 homes by making repairs to improve home safety and accessibility—this helps families minimize their environmental footprint by eliminating the need for new construction. 


Providing excellent care for orphaned and injured wildlife so that they may return to the wild. 

  • We promote the understanding, appreciation, and well-being of wildlife and the world we share through compassion, care, and community involvement.  We provide excellent care for orphaned and injured wildlife so that they may return to the wild.  We also provide education throughout our community to increase the understanding of and appreciation for wildlife and natural habitats, and to decrease the negative human-animal interactions that result in orphaned, sick, and injured wildlife. Since May 13, 2020, we have helped more than 940 animals representing 100 different species. 


Building community sustainability and resiliency through projects like the Lincoln Park Solar Garden  

  • Our mission is to lead and inspire change towards an equitable and sustainable future. We accomplish this mission through two areas of focus. The first is serving as the neighborhood convening organization in Duluth’s low-income Lincoln Park neighborhood, working on all aspects of sustainable revitalization that advance opportunities for residents and businesses like the Lincoln Park Solar Garden that will be providing energy by the end of this year for the Duluth Veterans Home and will also seed a fund for low income households in Lincoln Park facing utility shut-off. The second is a focus on community sustainability and resiliency including aspects of energy transition, housing stock improvement, economic security, and health.  

Equity and Diversity 

Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center 

Providing safety, space to heal, advocacy, and empowerment for women, children and all survivors of domestic violence. 

  • Our Shelter houses over 500 survivors every year, while more than 1,500 survivors access legal advocacy, safety planning, self-sufficiency guidance and youth support through our drop-in Resource Center. Safe Haven’s comprehensive programming supports survivors through their entire journey from crisis management to lasting freedom from domestic violence. Serving the seven-county region of northeastern Minnesota, we aim to provide both direct service and community awareness and outreach programming. 

Family Freedom Center 

Engage, empower, and educate the Black community by connecting entrepreneurs with business leaders and more.  

  • We seek to empower the Black community by reconstructing socio-cultural narratives and unapologetically embracing what it means to be Black, both historically and present day. We engage, empower, and educate our members in three core programming. First, business startups where we help People of Color entrepreneurs start their first business with the help of business leaders in the community. Second, we have an internal micro-business that facilitates anti racist and diversity workshops for schools and businesses in the community as well as nation wide. Third, we host Freedom Summer programming which allows the community to come together and learn skills from each other in a workshop format every Friday and Saturday during the Summer. 

 WE Health Clinic 

Our vision is that every individual controls their own sexual and reproductive health.  

WE Health Clinic aims to improve reproductive and sexual health disparities amongst minority groups, including preventing unintended pregnancies, creating access to contraception, abortion, LGBTQ+ healthcare and HIV/Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) by increasing access and providing client centered sexual and reproductive healthcare. In 2018, WHC expanded its services to include LGBTQ+ and transgender care due to the tremendous, increased community need. 

Mentor North 

Our mission is to celebrate youth and support their families through one-on-one mentorship and community engagement.  

  • We are a one-on-one, community-based mentoring organization working to match positive adults with youth in the community for a fulfilling and high-quality mentoring relationship built on trust and support. There are currently 152 active matches and 202 youth on the waitlist who are waiting to receive a mentor. Over half of the youth served in Mentor North are youth of color. Mentor North also provides in-depth screening and training of mentors, advocacy and support to families by connecting them to additional community resources and regular monthly activities for matches to participate in. 

Food Access 


Centering Indigenous values in all aspects of our work like reclaiming healthy and Indigenous foods 

  • The American Indian Community Housing Organization has operated successful programming for 27 years including emergency shelter, supportive housing, and community support services. AICHO was created to establish an Indigenous response to social conditions in Duluth and works to resolve the impact of violence, housing and economic inequity, historical trauma, and systemic racism. After AICHO opened its permanent supportive housing program in 2012, we started offering meals and converted unused rooftop spaces into an urban garden space. This started our journey to reclaim healthy and Indigenous foods 

 Duluth Branch NAACP – Health and Environmental Equity Committee 

Working with the Morgan Park Community Club to engage neighbors in visioning and building a community garden. 

  • The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. The Health Committee fulfills the NAACP’s commitment to eliminating the racial and ethnic disparities in our healthcare system that plague people of color in the United States. The Committee has been working with the Morgan Park Community Club to engage neighbors in visioning and building a community garden and networking with organizations to provide support to the food justice efforts. 

Duluth Children’s Museum 

Creating a learning kitchen and greenhouse and enhancing food access and gardening programming.  

  • We the fifth oldest children’s museum in the nation and is strategically located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, one of the most racially and socioeconomically diverse areas of Duluth.  The museum’s mission is to engage children in hands on learning through creative play and interactive exhibits. As the museum transitions to its new location, support through GIVE will be used to create a learning kitchen and greenhouse, enhance food access and gardening programming, and provide outreach programs to youth serving agencies and schools. 

Duluth Area Family YMCA 

Ensuring that youth who are hungry receive access to healthy meals and snacks all year long. 

  • We’ve made a lasting commitment to feeding youth in our community and we are ensuring that youth who are hungry receive access to healthy meals and snacks all year long. We understand the need for sustainable nutritional support for youth living in poverty and include healthy foods in our programs to meet their development needs. Youth do not have to be enrolled in a Y program to receive meals and snacks, they only need to drop into one of our sites in order to receive foods. We provide healthy snacks at our afterschool programs and drop-in sites, participate in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, ramped up our food distribution to ensure that all families in our community had the food and nutrition they needed stay healthy. 

Local Food Economy 

Sustainable Farming Association, Lake Superior chapter 

Supporting the development and enhancement of sustainable farming systems through farmer-to-farmer networking, innovation, demonstration and education. 

  • We support the development and enhancement of sustainable farming systems through farmer-to-farmer networking, innovation, demonstration and education. LSSFA represents and serves more than one hundred member households in the western Lake Superior region, including northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. Together we represent members who are both producers and consumers and strive to move food and farming systems into a sustainable future. The work of LSSFA is to enhance our regional food ecosystem by connecting the humans within it and by promoting the principles of soil health for truly sustainable farming. 

St. Louis River Alliance  

For the last 6 years we’ve planted manoomin, or Wild Rice, in the Estuary. In 2019 we planted 2500 pounds, and in 2020 we have planted 500 pounds. 

  • We are committed to getting people on the river in order to inspire and encourage families and individuals to be proper stewards of the land. We have conducted various initiatives for manoomin, or Wild Rice, restoration. For the last 6 years the St. Louis River Alliance has planted manoomin in the Estuary. In 2019 we planted 2500 pounds, and in 2020 we have planted 500 pounds. We host multiple annual events, including a spring river clean-up, summer community paddle, fall educational train ride and more! 

Eco-Entrepreneurship Program, Lake Superior College Foundation 

Our new “Summer Field School” allows LSC faculty, area farmers, entrepreneurs and practitioners to teach a variety of non-credit short courses in regenerative agriculture and restorative food systems. 

  • We’re devoted to providing the knowledge, skills, and networks for a more robust, inclusive regional food system and all the health, economic and ecological benefits it can bring. All students participate from seed to sale in our two-acre farm, the LSC Living Lab, growing and marketing fresh produce. Funds will be used for our new “Summer Field School” allowing LSC faculty, area farmers, entrepreneurs and practitioners to teach a variety of non-credit short courses in regenerative agriculture and restorative food systems.  This work will provide a significant platform for expanding experiential learning to assist in our quest in building a more robust agriculture and food system. 

Duluth Community Garden Program 

Making gardening accessible to anyone through 21 community gardens with 200 plots 

  • We work towards a healthy community for all Duluthians by making gardening accessible to anyone seeking to increase their access to fresh produce by providing: gardening space in our 21 community gardens with 200 plots; gardening education to support gardener success; a gardening tool and food processing equipment library and annual events that build social connections. Plot rental is on a sliding scale from $0-$200/year. In 2020, about 70% of our gardeners paid a reduced plot fee based on income. As a result, we need to seek out extra support to make up for the cost of subsidizing plots. 

Whole Foods Co•op


Hillside Location

610 E 4th Street
Duluth, MN 55805

Denfeld Location

4426 Grand Avenue
Duluth, MN 55807