Food Gifts that Matter
By Mark Bittman on December 21, 2011
© The New York Times
My column today offers suggestions for gifts for non-cooks. Obviously, cooking is not the only issue out there, and direct contact with friends is not the only way to change things in the food world: there is cash. There are countless worthy causes and just as many charitable institutions. If finding the cash to spare is difficult so, too, may be choosing where it will be put to best use. But if you’re thinking about making a donation this year to brighten the national or global food landscape, here’s a list of organizations where your gifts will be well spent. (No doubt there are equally worthy omissions; please add them in the comments section.)
- Trickle Up: Helps people living on less than $1.25 a day to lift themselves out of poverty by providing them with seed capital grants, community savings groups to help build their assets, and training for how to operate and grow a microenterprise.
- Oxfam: Works to end poverty and injustice in America and the rest of the world. Oxfam International has a particularly interesting blog written and edited by Duncan Green, head of research for Oxfam Great Britain. Also consider WhyHunger and Action Against Hunger.
- Heifer International: Helps families around the world feed themselves and gain access to sustainable means of income through gifts of livestock and training.
- Bread for the World: Lobbies U.S. political leaders — hard and effectively — to make addressing world hunger a national priority.
- Doctors Without Borders: Treats, among many others in desperate need, those suffering from severe malnutrition.
- Growing Power: Develops community-based food systems by training community members to sustainably, grow, process, market and distribute food. Its founder, Will Allen, is one of the more inspiring and gifted figures in the “good food movement” — or whatever you choose to call it — and a pioneer in the field of urban agriculture.
- Environmental Working Group: Promotes agricultural conservation, protects public health and exposes the federal policies that damage either one. Among many other contributions, EWG brings us the U.S. farm subsidy database, and the “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen” lists, rankings of the best and worst produce based on exposure to pesticides.
- Coalition of Immokalee Workers: Fights for fair wages, better treatment, better housing and greater respect for low-wage immigrant farm workers in Florida. CIW also works for stronger laws and enforcement protecting workers’ rights and the right to organize.
- The Humane Society of the United States: Advocates for the rights of animals, most notably — when it comes to changing the U.S. food system — by exposing the horrific, and all-too-routine animal abuses that have come to define industrial animal agriculture.
- Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools: Increases schoolchildren’s access to, and consumption of, fruits and vegetables by supporting and installing salad bars in schools across the U.S. This is one of Let’s Move’s most direct initiatives to address childhood obesity.
- Wholesome Wave: Its Double Value Coupon Program — now in over 200 markets in 23 states — doubles the value of federal nutrition assistance dollars — like SNAP and WIC — at participating farmers markets, making local fruits and vegetables more accessible to low-income Americans.
- Feeding America: Supplies food to more than 37 million Americans in need each year through a national network of food banks.
- Food Bank of New York City: New York’s preeminent hunger relief organization, tackling food poverty through distribution, income support and nutrition education.
- City Harvest: Rescues over 83,000 pounds of food every day, and distributes it to nearly 600 community programs. Instead of — or in addition to — donating funds, you can also donate food.
- People’s Grocery: Improves the economy and health of West Oakland by addressing the local food system and increasing access to healthy foods. Its work has served as a model for like-minded organizations across the country. (Here’s an interesting interview with Nikki Henderson, of People’s Grocery, and Alice Waters.)
- Food Corps: Sends service members to limited-resource communities around the U.S. to build and tend school gardens, implement nutrition education programs and bring healthy, local food to school cafeterias.
- Slow Food USA: Promotes food that’s healthy for the people who eat and grow it, and for the environment in which it’s grown. Slow Food USA also recently issued the $5 Challenge, a heartening charge for home cooks to reclaim the value meal from fast food.
- Food Democracy Now!: Organizes online campaigns and on-the-ground actions to replace the broken food system with a more sustainable one.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: Works to protect and promote federal agricultural policies that benefit local food systems, rural communities, family farmers and environmentally responsible practices.
- American Farmland Trust: Saves America’s productive farm and ranch land from development. No farms, no food.
- The Land Institute: Works to develop and promote an ecologically stable system of perennial agriculture with grain yields comparable to — and inputs less than — traditional annual monoculture.
- Oceana: Quite simply, strives to protect the oceans in every way imaginable, as evidenced by its extensive list of victories won over the past eight years.
- Just Food: Works to ensure that every neighborhood in New York City has the resources it needs to make fresh, local food accessible to all of its residents.