The side to the Whole Foods peeled oranges conversation you didn't see.

Backlash to pre-peeled oranges prompted an important discussion.

Last week, a woman named Nathalie Gordon set the Internet ablaze when she tweeted a photo and quip about some oranges at her local Whole Foods.


How wasteful, I thought when I saw her tweet. How lazy does someone have to be to not even peel their own oranges?

While it's clear Gordon was just joking around, her tweet gained immediate traction, racking up tens of thousands of likes, retweets, and replies from people with various conservationist messages and concerns about the unnecessary and seemingly wasteful use of plastic (as well as just outright demands to pull the product).


Less than three hours later, Whole Foods tweeted, "Definitely our mistake. These have been pulled. We hear you, and we will leave them in their natural packaging: the peel."


Photo from iStock.

That's the end of it, right? I thought so, too — but then I noticed a group of people responding negatively to Whole Foods' decision to pull the pre-peeled, plastic-wrapped oranges from the shelves, and the point they were making was important.

The decision to pull the product ignored the needs of individuals with arthritis and other disabilities that make peeling an orange difficult.

Members of the disabled community were quick to weigh in and provide thoughtful time- and energy-consuming responses to the decision to help able-bodied individuals understand their frustration.

New York City's first annual Disability Pride Parade on July 12, 2015. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.

Kim Sauder, a Ph.D. candidate in disability studies, posted about the decision at her blog crippledscholar, "As a person with limited hand dexterity, I look at this and see an easier way to eat healthy food."

"Preparing food with limited mobility is both hugely time consuming and potentially dangerous. While adapted cooking tools do exist to help offset those issues, they are really expensive, " Sauder explained on her blog. "Anything that helps make my regular acts of daily life safer and more convenient is always a plus. So I was one of a number of disabled people who pushed back against the wholesale shaming of preprepared foods."

Others, like Eb, who is both autistic and disabled, chimed in on Twitter, writing, "There is a very real need for pre-peeled fruit, as a number of people, me included, pointed out. This should not be in dispute."


"Any time you see a 'so lazy!' product you want to dig at, 99.9% of the time it's an accessible item for someone," author Ana Mardoll explained in a series of tweets.

"It is draining, tiring, painful to continually be treated like a wrongful drain on Mother Earth because we're disabled," Mardoll tweeted. "In addition to the wrongful drain we often feel we are on families, employers, etc. We exist. We take up space. We buy pre-peeled oranges and wear Snuggies and those 'ugly' plastic shoes and have grabbers to pull up our socks."

People who live with a disability are the world's largest minority group, yet they're often treated as though they're invisible.

The potential benefit something as simple as pre-peeled oranges could have for someone living with disability isn't something that always occurs to those of us who are able-bodied, and that's due in large part to the fact that it's simply not a reality we've experienced.

When we see ramps, elevators, and other tools designed to make the world more accessible to people with disabilities, it's easy for the first reaction to be, "How lazy do you have to be to take the elevator to the second floor?" In reality, without that elevator, others may not be able to reach the second floor at all.

It's not laziness, it's life.

New York City's Disability Pride Parade on July 12, 2015. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.

Just as it's easy not to see racism when you're white, homophobia when you're straight, or sexism when you're male, it's easy to see past ableism when you're not disabled.

This isn't just about a tweet or some oranges, but about how we treat the disabled community as a society.

The world is built for those of us living free from disability. And while certain things like the Americans with Disabilities Act have tried to ensure public spaces are made accessible to all, it's a far cry from true acceptance and accommodation.

What the world needs is more empathy for our fellow humans. It's the difference between remarking, "How lazy!" and instead asking, "How can I help?"

As for Whole Foods, it turns out they will continue to sell peeled orange and tangerine slices.

Asked for comment, Whole Foods told Upworthy the following:

"Many of our customers love the convenience that our cut produce offers, and this was a simple case where a handful of stores experimented with a seasonal product. Orange and tangerine slices have long been a staple favorite in our stores, and we'll continue to offer them alone with other sliced produce options for customers who are looking for added convenience. We're glad some customers pointed out this particular product so we could take a closer look and leave Sumos in their natural packaging — the peel."

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

It's possible to find a place where accessibility and minimal environmental impact meet, and hopefully Whole Foods can do that.

This isn't a zero-sum game, and there's certainly a path forward that is both accessible and environmentally-friendly. If we can seek out more environmentally-friendly solutions for things like fuel for our cars, we can do the same for the plastic we use in packaging.


Maybe that solution involves packaging pre-peeled and pre-sliced foods in biodegradable containers, maybe it involves an increased push for recycling, or maybe the solution has yet to be thought up. In the meantime, though, there are people who need their world to be accessible.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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