These Organizations Are Improving Our World Through the Food We Eat
Plus, here's how you can support them in your local area.
The power of food stretches far beyond nourishing our bodies and connecting with one another. We salute four organizations that are tirelessly working to improve the world through what we eat—from lifting up small farmers and tackling waste to getting healthy groceries into needy hands.
Regenerator Program at Cascade Ranch
Based in Pescadero, California, the Regenerator Program Founder supports up-and-coming farmers so their crops can help feed multiracial communities in California's Bay Area. Founder Jered Lawson and his team offer land and resources, including equipment, marketing, and mentorships, to women, Latinos, and the Black and Indigenous communities that have historically inhabited the land around the 418-acre farm but were denied access. "I hope our efforts help people know where their food comes from, and that it was grown with care for others and the planet," says Lawson.
Here's how you can help: Shop partner farm Pie Ranch's online market for pantry items like honey, flour, and canned goods (heirloom salsa, strawberry jam). Locals can pick up produce, too.
Harvest Against Hunger
In Seattle, Harvest Against Hunger feeds people suffering from hunger with nutritious, lightly blemished produce that would otherwise get thrown away. "Our core belief is that providing healthy food to people in need builds healthier communities," says executive director David Bobanick. He and his staff forge connections between large-scale growers, produce-packing facilities, volunteer truckers, and distribution warehouses to cull and distribute perfectly imperfect fruits and vegetables. They also link small growers with local hunger-relief programs.
Here's how you can help: COVID-19 has put a hold on large-scale volunteer efforts, but online donations aid in developing new programs and expanding existing ones.
In Austin, the mission of Common Threads is to teach under-resourced families from diverse backgrounds how to make healthy, affordable food choices. In the past year, this grassroots group ramped up its roster of online workshops and classes for children, parents, and teachers. It offers a healthy cooking series, interactive demos, and virtual classes (all funded by grants) for third to eighth graders, and provides the foods necessary for the classes, too. Limited in-person programs range from knife-free cooking for kids to chef-guided grocery-store tours that teach smart shopping habits.
Here's how you can help: Donate online to supply food and equipment for virtual courses, or create a fund-raising goal (there's a form for this on the site) and rally friends and family to get involved.
In New York City, Rethink Food fosters relationships between restaurants and local community centers so extra food doesn't go to waste. The organization works with 55 restaurants in New York City, Nashville, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., to prepare meals from excess ingredients and take them straight to nearby homeless shelters, rehabilitation clinics, churches, and more. In the past year, Rethink Food has invested more than $12 million in participating businesses that have suffered during the pandemic, and the group is always looking for more kitchens to support.
Here's how you can help: A monthly donation goes a long way. Rethink's board covers all overhead costs, so every cent goes toward meals.
Lending a Hand Locally
"Every area has different needs, but you can give back wherever you live," says Sarah Carey, our director of food and entertaining, who joined her friends to help their hard-hit community in Queens, New York, during the pandemic. "The food lines in my neighborhood were stretching around the block," she explains. To learn how they could be most impactful, they reached out to their assemblywoman's office. "She suggested New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), a nonprofit dedicated to improving life for immigrant workers in the city." They sponsored the org's holiday event, where families could pick up items like diapers and toys. The event provided hundreds of hot meals and drinks, and Sarah and crew also baked a whopping 3,000-plus cookies. Says Sarah of the experience, "It was good to do something positive, and know we were making a small difference."