• 08.29.14

How Republican Is Whole Foods? I Used An App To Find Out

Spoiler: that hemp flax granola you’re buying is probably made by Haliburton.

How Republican Is Whole Foods? I Used An App To Find Out
[Photos: Flickr user Richard O. Barry]

How Republican are your cornflakes? How Democratic your Spaghetti-Os? If these are the sorts of questions that keep you up at night, BuyPartisan is a new app that advertises itself as “like a nutritional label for your political values.” Just scan the barcode of a food you like, wait for the melodious beep (*Bleep-bleep!*), and the app will spit out a pie-chart breakdown of how much money the company has donated to political causes over the past 10 years.


Curious about how BuyPartisan works, I decided to install the app and use it grocery shopping. As a Democrat, I was pretty sure that Dick Cheney and Jeb Bush probably sat on the board of Stop ‘N’ Shop. But surely Whole Foods, that gleaming pleasure dome of hyper-organic, eco-conscious foodstuffs that bleeding-heart bark chewers like myself love to visit when we’re not congratulating ourselves for agreeing with John Oliver, would be different. Wouldn’t it?

Spoiler: it’s almost impossible to buy anything in Whole Foods without, in a roundabout way, supporting the Republican Party.

BuyPartisan sources its data from a trio of non-partisan, nonprofits dedicated to tracking money and lobbying in U.S. politics, and in particular, that money’s effects on elections: the Center for Responsive Politics, the Sunlight Foundation, and the Institute for State Money in Politics. It shows you not necessarily how the company itself donates, but how the people behind the company donate. The app’s not much to look at–the UI looks like it was put together with some cookiecutter, off-the-shelf “Build Your Own App” toolkit–but it doesn’t need to be pretty: the data this app gives easy access to is the real star here.

I started in the juice section, picking up a large bottle of Naked Juice. *Budddle-leep.* 94.5% Republican. Huh. Who knew? What about this bottle of Odwalla? *Boop-de-beedleee.* Okay, much better, although still, 37.5% of this bottle is Republican, making more than a third of this bottle of juice squeezed, not from mangos as it says on the label, but from the hearts of dead Iraqi orphans.

Checking my list, I noted the missus also wanted me to pick up some cereal. I grabbed a bag of Bob’s Red Mill. *Gleeeble-fleep!* 49% Republican, 31% Democrat, 20% Other. Okay, how about Kashi? *Hooble-dee-zlorp!* That’s better, I guess: 37.25% Republican to 33.5% Democrat, which means that the Kellogg’s-owned Kashi brand bleeds bluer blood than that malevolently cackling, oatmeal-loving oligarch, Bob Moore.

And everything was like this. A box of Nature’s Path Organix Flax with Red Berries? 44.75% Republican. A bottle of Meyer’s 2x Lemon Verbena Laundry Detergent? 50.5% Republican! A bottle of Newman’s Own Olive Oil, straight from the vineyards of lifelong Democrat Paul Newman himself? 94.5% Republican!


“Uh, sir, can I help you finding anything?” a puzzled Whole Foods employee asked me as I sat cross-legged in the middle of an aisle, muttering to myself while scanning products with my iPhone and then hurling them in a dramatic arc behind me. But he couldn’t, no matter how many times I shook him by the lapels, thrusting my iPhone in his face and screaming, “WHERE’S THE DEMOCRAT AISLE?” over and over again. I am pleased to report, however, that Whole Foods’ crackerjack security team was very helpful in making sure that my front teeth met the curb outside. Nice chaps.

I kid, of course. The truth is, you probably shouldn’t use BuyPartisan to find out how Republican or Democrat your food is, because BuyPartisan doesn’t actually give you an easy way to find alternatives to that carton of blood oil orange juice or bag of Monsanto tortilla chips. There are no suggestions made on a similar product you could buy to keep your conscience clean. You simply scan some food you love in and find out, oh, hey, did you know your own personal Satan is behind this? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

Down this path lies madness. Everything has blood on it in some way or another, and this app will only drive purists crazy. Even if a company is donating money to one cause, the people who run that company are donating to another. But hey, if you want to, you can download BuyPartisan here and see for yourself. Knock yourself out.