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Community Outreach As a Core Value

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— February 19, 2019

Community Outreach As a Core Value

  • The people at Nature’s Food Patch provide services that go beyond those of the typical health food store.
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The people at Nature’s Food Patch provide services that go beyond those of the typical health food store.

The Clearwater, Florida, establishment regularly reaches out to the community with free classes, charitable donations, and personalized service.

“We consider our customers, as well as our team members and suppliers, to all be part of our ‘Patch Family,’” says marketing director Cheryl Rosselle.

A new branch of the Patch, located close to the cycling path in nearby Dunedin, shares the main store’s offerings that cater to a variety of diets, with products including non-GMO, organic, gluten-free, Paleo, keto, vegan, vegetarian, raw and other kinds of foods. “We recognize that there are a lot of different diets out there, and it’s up to the individual to decide what’s best for them,” Rosselle notes. “We are here to make it easy to be healthy.”

In an effort to please every palate, both stores sell prepared foods, with a deli selection of made-to-order sandwiches, grab-n-go meals, fresh-pressed organic juices, and smoothies. The Clearwater location features a large, colorful salad bar, and a hot bar with soups and entrées prepared fresh from scratch every day.

Providing customers with information is a priority, and the Patch schedules programs nearly every day of the week. Recent seminar topics have included Food as Medicine, Probiotics and Gut Health, and Five Ways to Abolish Cravings. Cooking classes range from vegan to Paleo, and kids are entertained with Story Time sessions and Mr. Brad’s Music Fun Time.

The Patch began its Ban the Bag Campaign (now called “Bring Your Own Bag”) on Earth Day of 2008. Since that time, plastic shopping bags are no longer offered in the store. To encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags, the Patch makes a five-cent donation per bag to a different charitable organization each month. In addition, they regularly give donations of food, gift cards and baskets to charities, schools and small businesses. Six days a week, leftover food goes to the Homeless Empowerment Program, a social services organization in Clearwater.

The store and its staff support a long list of local organizations by participating in annual coastal cleanups along the beaches, helping out in community gardens, donating produce to feed turtles at the Clearwater Beach Aquarium and other activities. “We also offer free kids’ store tours for homeschoolers, summer camps, Girl Scouts and other groups,” says Rosselle. “The kids learn about GMOs, fresh foods versus packaged foods, exotic fruits, milk alternatives, herbs and spices, essential oils, conservation, and recycling. We offer free samples including things to smell, like fresh lavender, and feel, like a rough coconut.”

The business is run by members of the Amort family, whose father chose to fight his cancer diagnosis with a macrobiotic lifestyle. In 1987, inspired to share his passion for healthy foods with the public, he took over an 11-year-old food co-op to create what is now the 22,000-square-foot main store. The 6,000-square-foot Dunedin branch was opened in 2018, in a community known for its emphasis on small business, environmental protection and friendliness to dogs.

At a time when many health food stores are struggling or going under due to competition from Internet sales and big box stores, the Patch is thriving and even looking to expand. “As we grow and begin to open more new stores,” says Rosselle, “we are looking for strong communities of people who like to support and shop local. Smaller stores can provide convenience to niche communities. We will continue to concentrate on our core values: organic, vegan and customer care.”

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