Fair-Trade

Spotlight on Tierra Farm

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Tierra Farm this week to highlight the socially and environmentally responsible practices of this employee-owned business. They provide an array of healthy products to our bulk department that are certified organic, gluten-free, kosher, and GMO-free, all of which are produced in small batches in their solar-powered facility in nearby Valatie, NY. They’re featured in our Member Deals program this week, so member-owners can enjoy 20% off their delicious fair-trade coffee, dried fruits, nuts, nut butters, and other healthy snacks from May 2nd – 8th! Read on to learn more about this fantastic small business and their commitment to responsible practices throughout the supply chain:

Tierra Farm is a Certified Organic manufacturer and distributor of nuts, dried fruits, and coffee located 20 miles south of Albany, New York. Their customers consist mainly of cooperatives and independently owned grocery stores that value working with an employee-owned, environmentally conscious company that manufactures its own products.

Tierra Farm started as a diversified organic vegetable farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The organic nuts & dried fruit portion of the business started in 1999, as a way to generate income in the slower winter months. That portion of the business has continued to thrive and evolve into a year-round operation, though they still maintain their original farm.

Tierra Farm offers their customers exceptional value through unbeatable quality at prices that are fair both to the consumer and to the farmer. Their products are made without preservatives, added oils or refined sugars, in their own peanut-free facility. They manufacture the products they sell: dry roasting and flavoring nuts and seeds, blending trail mixes, grinding butter, covering nuts and fruits in fair-trade chocolate, and roasting fair trade coffee. Everything is made in small, hand-crafted batches for freshness.

One of their core values has been to cultivate strong relationships with the best organic farmers in the world. They work directly with the farmers from which they source their nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and have worked with some of these farmers for over a decade. Being in direct communication with their farmers allows the preservation of their organic integrity and ensures fair business practices throughout the supply chain.

Tierra Farm handles only Certified Organic products which are grown without synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, or chemical fertilizers. This helps sustain biodiversity, conserves fresh water, and enhances the soil. They generate over 70% of their electricity from solar panels and recycle over 60% of their waste. Their boxes are made from recycled cardboard and their deli cup containers are made from over 50% recycled material – both are recyclable after use. They’re continuously looking for better ways to protect the planet.

Tierra Farm also values the importance of investing in their staff. They have an in-house gym, an in-house chef who cooks daily organic, gluten-free meals for staff – often using fresh produce directly from their farm, a staff masseuse who visits weekly, and they offer many employee health initiatives such as a smoking cessation program that allows their staff to be 100% tobacco-free.

If you’re passing through the Albany area, they invite you to check out their retail store at Tierra Farm’s headquarters in Valatie, NY, where local customers are able to purchase all of their (almost 200) products!

Spotlight on SunRidge Farms

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on SunRidge Farms this week! All of their products are 20% off for member-owners from April 18th – 24th. Read on to learn more about their commitment to offering nutritious, ecologically respectful, and sustainable foods for more than 30 years!

The Company

SunRidge Farms is a family-owned business that has been producing high-quality foods for more than 30 years. Their organic and natural food offerings can be found throughout our bulk department and are a reflection of the company’s commitment to a healthier lifestyle – a commitment that extends to the environment, the supply chain, and their community. They carefully source quality ingredients from suppliers who share their values and source organic, non-GMO, and Fair Trade ingredients whenever possible. They choose to offer their products in bulk as a way to demonstrate the value of purchasing foods in a manner that reduces cost and waste. Their facility, located in Royal Oaks, California, is completely solar-powered and their fleet of trucks run on bio-diesel. They also pay an extra $5 per day to their team members who choose to bike to work. These measures add up to a greatly reduced carbon footprint for their company and a lineup of products that you can feel good about.

The Mission

  • SunRidge Farms is committed to providing the healthiest products to their customers by producing foods without highly processed or refined ingredients. We are dedicated to sourcing Non-GMO (genetically modified) ingredients.
  • SunRidge Farms is committed to the planet and supports organic farming and sustainable practices.
  • SunRidge Farms sincerely believes that it is essential to aid in the conservation of ecological diversity, wildlife, and natural terrain in order to preserve our world. Their contributions include substantial donations toward the successful resolution of environmental, social, food-related issues on both local and global levels.

The Vision

SunRidge Farms is committed to offering nutritious, ecologically respectful, and sustainable foods to their communities. Their complete line of certified organic and naturally grown products aids and supports an authentic lifestyle and display a commitment to food safety, ecological integrity, and excellence.
Their Green Commitment is centric to all of their business decisions. The manufacturing facility is solar-powered, and they support sustainable farming practices, energy usage, recycling, and freshness. Their goal is to enhance connections between consumers, retail stores, farmers, and suppliers.
They also embrace the many opportunities to contribute toward ecological diversity, wildlife, and the preservation of natural terrain. Reducing the impacts of global climate change and respecting the earth and its beings are vital to all that they do. Their support includes substantial donations toward environmental, social, food-related, educational and world hunger issues.

 

Guacamole

This delicious and simple guacamole recipe comes to us from the avocado experts at Equal Exchange Co-op, who are working hard to radically transform the avocado market to benefit small, organic farmers. Equal Exchange partners with PRAGOR, a progressive cooperative of small-scale avocado farmers in Michoacán Mexico. This region of Mexico is called “the avocado capital of the world.” However, powerful corporate interests have made it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete. In response, PRAGOR courageously organized and decided they would collectively control the entire process from growing to exporting. We’ll be featuring these Organic, Fair Trade avocados in our weekly sale from January 31st – February 6th, so it’s a perfect time to make a big batch of guacamole to feed your game day crowd!

Spotlight on Badger

Our Co-op Spotlight is shining brightly on Badger this week. This small, family-owned, family-run, and family-friendly company nestled in the woods of Gilsum, New Hampshire is beyond worthy of the spotlight. They help define what it means to be a socially accountable, environmentally responsible, people-first kind of business. They are featured in our Member Deals program this week, so all of their fabulous body care products are 20% for member-owners from November 23rd – 28th! Read on to learn about the ideals, principles, and practices that make their company worthy of such high praise!

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Badger was born in 1995 when founder Bill Whyte was working as a carpenter in the cold New Hampshire winters and created an amazing balm that helped soothe and heal his cracked hands. Badger Bill ran the company (as CEO) along with his wife Katie Schwerin (as COO) and their two daughters Rebecca Hamilton and Emily Schwerin-Whyte and it grew to over 100 products and over 80 employees. In 2018 Bill passed the leadership of the company on to Rebecca and Emily making them both CEOs or Collaborative Executive Officers. Click HERE to read more about Badger’s amazing history.

Badger Bill and family

 

Quality Ingredients and Standards

Badger selects ingredients with great care, using only those that fit their rigorous natural standards for healthy agriculture, minimal processing, sustainable supply chain, and health-giving properties. Every ingredient they use is grown and processed with the highest degree of respect for protecting the environment, the workers and the natural properties of the plants. Nearly all of Badger’s products are made from 100% USDA Certified Organic food-grade ingredients and they utilize as many fair trade certified ingredients as possible. You can view their impressive growing and processing standards on their web page.

Team of Friendly Badgers

B Corp Status

Badger became a B Corporation in 2011 to help assess and improve their business practices and ensure that they’re always doing what’s right for people and the planet. In June of 2018, Badger was named ‘Best For the World’ and ‘Best for the Environment’ by the folks at B Corp, recognizing their efforts to create a positive impact for workers, environment, and community.

Badger facility & ecology center
Badger Facility & Ecology Center Gardens

Family-Focused Employee Programs

Badger was awarded the Connect 2016 Philosophy Award for their accommodating employee benefits and exemplary work environment. Creating a family-friendly workplace is a high priority at Badger. They aim to be supportive of new parents in their extended work family while considering the well-being of all employees and productivity in the workplace. They offer an extended parental leave and a Babies At Work program, which brings together a policy that is best for baby, parent, and business. This policy allows the parent to bring the child to the workplace until it begins crawling, at which time it graduates to Badger’s Calendula Garden Childcare Center. The Center is located just a quarter-mile from the Badger campus and offers high-quality, subsidized childcare for children of their employees.  Badger, in a sense, creates its own “village” to support both parent and child!

 

Calendula Garden Child Care Center
Calendula Garden Child Care Center

Another exemplary aspect of employee care is their free lunch program. This is a daily organic lunch served during a paid 30-minute break. Every day their fabulous cooks prepare a free, home-cooked lunch for all of the Badgers made from 100% organic and mostly local foods. During the summer months, much of the produce comes right from their Badger Ecology Center vegetable garden! Read more about Badger’s impressive employee benefits here.

Free organic lunch!
Free Organic Lunch For Badger Staff

Product Certifications

Badger believes that third-party certifications take the guesswork out of claims made on cosmetics and personal care items. This means that they adhere to the standards and guidelines of any third party agency certifying their products. Their products are certified organic by both the USDA and the NSF, many of the ingredients are Fair Trade certified, and all products are certified gluten-free and certified cruelty-free.

 

Take a Virtual Tour with Badger Bill:

 

A Tour of Badger from Badger Balm on Vimeo.

Spotlight on Lake Champlain Chocolates

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight this week on a local favorite – Lake Champlain Chocolates! All of their mouth-watering chocolates are 20% off for member-owners from November 15th – 21st! Read on to learn more about this local confectionery that has called Vermont home since 1983:

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History:

The story of Lake Champlain Chocolates began back in 1983 when founder Jim Lampman dared his pastry chef at Burlington’s Ice House Restaurant to create a better truffle than the ones he had been buying for his staff as holiday gifts. Together they began making the most amazing hand-rolled, creamy truffles and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sourcing Matters:

From the very beginning, long before eating local was cool, they’ve been committed to sourcing Vermont-grown ingredients whenever possible. They knew that using high-quality Vermont honey, maple syrup, and dairy from local farmers and producers would result in superior chocolates.

They’re also aware that sourcing matters for products that must come from afar. From the cacao farmers to their customers and every hardworking person and supplier in between, their  Fair for Life – Social & Fair Trade Certification goes above and beyond by looking not only at individual ingredients but at company practices as a whole. This means that you can enjoy every bite of chocolate knowing that they are committed to making a positive impact on our local and global communities.

The goal is to bring you their best.  To make high-quality chocolate that amazes with exquisite flavor and creates a moment of pure joy. It’s also why they’ve never added preservatives, extenders, or additives, and why they’ve worked diligently to remove GMOs from all of their chocolates and use organic and fair trade certified ingredients whenever possible. With each new product, the goal remains the same – to create something special, and to give you the best experience.

Eric Lampman in the Dominican Republic

A Family Affair:

Lake Champlain Chocolates is a second-generation, family-owned business, just like the generations of Vermont family farmers that provide them with fresh butter, cream, maple syrup, and honey. And just like the generations of cacao farmers in places like the Dominican Republic and Guatemala — with whom they have direct partnerships. Today, Jim’s son and daughter, Eric and Ellen, are defining the future of Lake Champlain Chocolates by developing award-winning organic products and spearheading sustainable sourcing initiatives. Along the way following the Lampman family principles: Dare to do better. Always do it with Passion. And do it your way.

Lampman Family

Fair Trade:

Beyond labeling individual products as “fair trade” — an ongoing process in itself — the entire company is now certified Fair for Life.  Fair for Life is a rigorous third-party certification for social accountability and fair trade. Above and beyond fair trade certification, it looks at a company’s practices as a whole, including the ingredients used in its products. LCC undergoes regular audits to ensure every step of its supply chain is socially legit. Not just the cocoa, but every link they have as a business, including their own employees’ working conditions here in Vermont.

Why? Because of their belief that every person in the process should be treated and compensated fairly. And that means everyone in the supply chain — from the farmers who grow and harvest the cocoa, to those who transport it, transform it into chocolate, process your order, package it, and ensure it arrives ready for you to enjoy.

This certification affirms the following:

  • A price premium is paid to the cocoa farmers and co-ops.
  • Certified products originate from fair trade producer operations.
  • LCC is engaged in long-term partnerships and socially responsible trading practices with its suppliers/purveyors.
  • LCC respects the labor rights of its own employees, providing good working conditions.
  • LCC is a good community citizen and practices environmental responsibility.
fair-trade-chocolate-lcc

 

 

Factory Tours:

Want to see how their chocolates are made? Take a FREE Factory Tour!

Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm
Tours on the hour
Self-Guided Tours after 3pm

FREE Chocolate Tastings
Saturday & Sunday, 11am to 4pm

750 Pine Street Burlington, VT
Tours fill up quickly in peak months, so call ahead: 802-864-1807

 

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seemed like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and avocados from small farmers. All of their co-op produced, fair trade certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 18th – 24th!

History:

Equal Exchange was started over 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.

Mission:

Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.

Authentic Fair Trade:

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farm workers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers

 

What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?

Bananas:

According to the USDA, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is notorious for low wages and heavy chemical use, causing major health problems across banana producing regions. You can read more about that here. Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. By buying Equal Exchange bananas, you are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.
Here’s a look at the impact of your Equal Exchange banana purchases in 2017:

 

 

 

 

Avocados:

Equal Exchange partners with PRAGOR, a progressive group of small-scale avocado farmers in Michoacán Mexico. PRAGOR is composed of 18 producer members who each own an average of 10-15 acres of land, all 100% organic. This region of Mexico is called “the avocado capital of the world.” However, powerful corporate interests have made it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete. In response, PRAGOR courageously organized and decided they would collectively control the entire process from growing to exporting. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world!
Here’s a look at the impact of your Equal Exchange avocado purchases in 2016:

Coffee:

This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. One of their latest projects, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. You can find the featured Women In Coffee Series coffee, Colombian Solstice, in our bulk department.

Another fantastic project brewing at Equal Exchange is their Congo Coffee Project. Equal Exchange founded the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States and raise awareness about the alarming rate of sexual violence that takes place every day. Sexual violence has affected thousands of people in the Congo over the last two decades, and for women, men and children in need of medical attention there are not many options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned or ignored with nowhere to go.  Survivors of sexual violence seek refuge and assistance at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, a bustling place with more than 360 staff and thousands of visitors each year.  The hospital treats patients with various ailments but has become known as a safe place for survivors of sexual violence to seek treatment and heal from their trauma.   

Since inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $60,000 for survivors of sexual violence and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician responsible for treating survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness of their plight, was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. You can read more about that here and you can support Dr. Mukwege’s work by purchasing the Congo Project coffee in our Bulk department.

 

Can Fair Trade Help Address Climate Change?

October is Fair Trade Month! We all know that Fair Trade Certified products have deep social and economic impacts, but is it possible that they could also be part of the solution in addressing a changing climate? According to this article from our friends at NCG, Fair Trade has a key role to play and cooperatives are doing their part to support the effort:

When the fair trade story is told, people often focus on the social and economic benefits fair trade provides producers, which are significant. But the market stability that fair trade certification creates also empowers farmers to invest in farming methods such as regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and tropical reforestation projects that help to slow climate change.

Equal Exchange Cooperative Coffee Farmers. Photo courtesy of Equal Exchange

In May of 2018, food co-ops across the country partnered with Fair World Project to raise awareness about the inspiring environmental projects many fair trade producers have undertaken in tropical areas all over the world. In addition to selling over one million dollars of fair trade certified products, directly benefitting producer communities within our supply chain, collectively we raised $8,000 for Fair World Project’s Grow Ahead initiative, a grassroots effort to fund reforestation projects at Cooperative Norandino in Peru.

The cooperative is owned by 7,000 small-scale, fair trade and organic cacao, coffee, sugar and fruit farmers in northern Peru who will be using the funds to plant 69,000 native tree seedlings and build two plant nurseries. This is part of a larger farmer-led reforestation project covering 136 acres in total. Tropical reforestation remains a powerful and well-known method of drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making Project Drawdown’s top ten list of potential climate change solutions.

Food co-ops continue to pursue and support projects like Cooperative Norandino’s because tropical areas of our world are critical parts of our supply chain, growing an enormous variety of agricultural products from staple grains like rice and quinoa, to widely used tropical oils like palm and coconut, to beloved treats like bananas, coffee, and chocolate. Many of the methods used to farm these products quickly and cheaply have taken an enormous toll on the people, local economies and the environment. We believe that working together, people and businesses can do better.

Shea Butter Cooperative. Photo courtesy of Alaffia.

Partnering with fair trade companies, farmer and producer cooperatives is one way of ensuring that the people involved throughout our supply chain are properly empowered economically and legally. Because tropical areas are also critical to the protection and improvement of Earth’s atmosphere, food co-ops collectively have chosen to invest in projects that are focused on protecting, growing and sustainably managing tropical rainforests, like the one our colleagues at Cooperative Norandino are pursuing, or our own carbon offset program, Co+op Forest.

We are honored to partner with inspiring organizations like Fair World Project, Cooperative Norandino and fair trade cooperatives all over the world to bring our customers the very best food the world has to offer in a more sustainable way. Look for fair trade products when you shop at the co-op, your purchase makes a difference.

 

*cover photo shows members of Cooperative Norandino. Photo credit to Fair World Project.

Reflections on a Coffee Field Trip

This September, I had the privilege of representing our co-op at the Vermont Partners Gathering at Equal Exchange. The two-day event, held at their national headquarters in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, brought together managers and staff from three Vermont food co-ops with an aim on learning about the work and products of Equal Exchange—a worker-owned co-op of over 30 years—and collaborating with our peers from the Green Mountain state. MNFC carries many of Equal Exchange’s fairly-traded and organic products, including whole bean and ground coffee, chocolate, bananas, and avocados.

Photo Credit Equal Exchange

The Gathering was jam-packed with fascinating people and presentations. We toured their roasting facility where they roast coffee cherries from 26 different small-farmer co-ops in 12 countries. They buy 99% of their coffee directly from the farmers, which number 20,000 in Latin America alone! We learned about their rigorous screening process from “seed to cup, ” or from the farm all the way to the cupping lab where 30-40 cups are tested every day to ensure quality and consistency (I know a few folks who would LOVE that gig.) We engaged with the Co-Executive Directors, Coffee Quality Manager, Head Roaster, Action Forum community organizers, and many more of their smart, hard-working team. Overall, I had a lot of fun and learned much from the hosts and fellow co-opers that will help me make more informed decisions when buying—be it products for our store or my family.

Photo Credit: Equal Exchange

It’s clear this is a great company. From their mission which focuses on building “long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound,” to their “No Buy-Out” clause (it’s against their organizational by-laws to sell out to a larger corporation) I feel great about having Equal Exchange products in my home and helping to sell them in our store.

Along with delicious, seemingly infinite helpings of coffee, we sampled their organic and fair trade chocolates, tea, dried fruit and nuts, bananas, and even a brand new offering: Palestinian olive oil. This was a treat in and of itself, but when complemented by the stories of the people and work abroad, and even photos of the farmers who grew each product, this experience left me with both a full heart and full belly—and at least a fleeting thought about maybe, possibly, becoming a regular coffee drinker (this was what my wife was hoping I’d come home with: a new habit.) I’m grateful to our co-op—especially our busy bulk department!—for giving me this opportunity to learn more about our food system and to network with like-minded people.

Photo Credit: Equal Exchange

Although I didn’t come back with a new addiction, I did gain a powerful insight on my Willy Wonka-esque trip south of Boston. Like a lot of you, I’m sure, I’ve always struggled with buying food from halfway across the world—bananas, cashews, and chocolate, for example. Fair-trade, organic, or not, the harsh reality is that these products demand a lot of energy to get to me in Middlebury, and I often find myself wondering why I can’t simply let go of exotic fruits and find myself more local nutrition. However, during my time at Equal Exchange, I realized that the same philosophy that leads me to support Vermont berry growers can pretty easily be applied to these Tropical-belt products: where banana trees grow, there are farmers who make their living growing them, and I can actually support their livelihood. On day two of the event, instead of looking at the bunch of bananas in the bowl on the breakfast table as a source of guilt, I began to see all the honest hands that produced it, and moved it, into the bowl. That felt good.

Thanks to Alternative Trade Organizations, I can enjoy all the food benefits of these plants while also feeling good about more of my dollar supporting modest, hard-working people who are doing their part to feed the world while also taking care of the planet. In this global world, that instills a sense of community for me, and it’s a community to which I want to belong. It isn’t perfect—there’s still the problem of carbon emissions—but it’s laying a good foundation for the food system for when we figure out large-scale, sustainable transportation. I have to believe we’ll get there…without polluting our home along the way.

-Larry Montague

Spotlight on Alaffia

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Alaffia this weekand all of their Fair Trade Certified, Co-op-made body care products are 20% off for member-owners from July 19th – 25th! Many Alaffia products are already featured in our Co-op Basics program, so this Member Deals discount will be in addition to the everyday low price on those items! It’s a great time to stock up and save! Read on to learn more about Alaffia and their efforts to alleviate poverty and empower communities in West Africa through the fair trade of shea butter, coconut, and other indigenous resources:

 

Alaffia was founded in 2004 with Fair Trade as the fundamental foundation of their organization, which is comprised of the Alaffia Village in Sokodé, Togo; the Alaffia Coconut Cooperative in Klouvi-Donnou, Togo; and the Alaffia headquarters in Olympia, Washington. Their cooperatives handcraft indigenous raw ingredients, and the Alaffia team in Olympia creates the finished products. Proceeds from the sales of these products are then returned to communities in Togo, West Africa, to fund community empowerment and gender equality projects.

What impact have your Alaffia purchases had in these communities thus far?

 

 

Each year in West Africa, 160,000 women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Over her lifetime, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 4,000 in developed countries (UNICEF, 2015). There are several reasons for the high maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, including extreme poverty and inadequate infrastructure.  It is possible to save lives with basic health care and gender equality.

Alaffia’s Maternal Health Project has two parts; The first is a direct approach by which Alaffia provides funding for full pre- and postnatal care, including special and urgent needs, to women in rural Togo. Alaffia product sales have paid for the births of 4,832 babies in rural Togolese communities through the Togo Health Clinic system!

The Alaffia Women’s Clinic Project is the second part of their women’s health efforts. In 2007, they formed partnerships with local Togo clinics to provide information and training on all women’s health issues, including nutrition, preventing female genital mutilation, and much more. They believe that saving mothers is a necessary step in reducing poverty. When a mother dies, her surviving children’s nutrition & health suffer, and they are more likely to drop out of school, reducing their ability to rise out of poverty.

 

 

The future of African communities depends on the education and empowerment of young people. Since Alaffia founded their shea butter cooperative in 2003, they’ve provided school uniforms, books, and writing supplies to children in Togolese communities to offset the financial burden these items have on poor families. They also donate desks and install new roofs on schools to make learning a more enjoyable experience. Since 2011, Alaffia product sales have funded the construction of twelve schools throughout Togo and provided school supplies to 34,640 recipients. They now partner with retail stores to collect school supplies – if you would like to help collect pens and pencils for this project, please contact their office at 1-800-664-8005.

 

 

In rural areas of Togo, students walk up to 10 miles a day to attend school. There are no buses, and families cannot afford private transportation. As a result, school becomes very time-consuming, and most students decide to quit school in order to fulfill their family obligations. In rural areas, less than 10% of high school-aged girls and only 16% of boys attend school (UNICEF). In 2004, Alaffia began collecting and sending used bicycles to Togolese students to encourage them to stay in and complete school through their Bicycles for Education Project. Now, with over 8,253 bicycles sent and distributed, they are seeing a real impact on exam scores and retention in rural schools. 95% of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.
Alaffia collects used bicycles in and around their communities in Washington and Oregon, with the help of their retailers, volunteers, and staff. All costs of this project – from collecting, repairing, and shipping bicycles, to customs duties, distribution costs, ongoing maintenance, and follow-up – are paid for through the sales of Alaffia products. This project brings communities in the US and Togo together. Bicycles that would otherwise be destined for the landfill are encouraging students in Togo to stay in school so they can lead their communities out of poverty. To find out how you can be involved, visit their web page or email communications@alaffia.com

 

 

Deforestation and climate change have had a devastating impact on West African farming communities. Alaffia product sales have funded the planting of 59,775 trees by Togolese farmers to help mitigate erosion and improve food security for their families. They also conduct trainings to discourage the cutting of shea trees for firewood and charcoal to preserve this important indigenous resource for future generations. Through their Alternative Fuels Project, they investigate sustainable fuel alternatives, such as bio-gas and bio-oils, to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal.

 

 

In Togo, it is extremely difficult for visually impaired people to obtain eyeglasses. An eye exam costs as much as one month’s wage and a pair of eyeglasses can cost up to four months of wages. Alaffia collects used eyeglasses at retailer locations throughout the US and employs an optometrist in Togo to correctly fit and distribute the glasses. A pair of eyeglasses is life-changing for a child struggling in school, the elderly with failing vision, and adults who have never been able to see clearly. To date, Alaffia has collected over 25,588 pairs of glasses.

 

 

As part of their Maternal Health Initiatives, Alaffia aims to educate women about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), or excision. FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The procedure can result in severe bleeding, infections, life-threatening complications in childbirth, and increased risk of newborn deaths (World Health Organization).

Abidé Awesso is the Maternal Health & FGM Eradication Coordinator in the Bassar region of Togo and has been working with Alaffia since 2012. Hodalo Katakouna was one of Abidé’s first patients and one of the first women to be supported as part of our Maternal Health and FGM Eradication project. Click here to read Abidé’s account of Hodalo’s story.

 

Spotlight on Tierra Farm

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Tierra Farm this week to highlight the socially and environmentally responsible practices of this employee-owned business. They provide an array of healthy products to our bulk department that are certified organic, gluten-free, kosher, and GMO-free, all of which are produced in small batches in their solar-powered facility in nearby Valatie, NY. They’re featured in our Member Deals program this week, so member-owners can enjoy 20% off their delicious fair-trade coffee, dried fruits, nuts, nut butters, and other healthy snacks from May 24th – 30th! Read on to learn more about this fantastic small business and their commitment to responsible practices throughout the supply chain:

Tierra Farm is a Certified Organic manufacturer and distributor of nuts, dried fruits, and coffee located 20 miles south of Albany, New York. Their customers consist mainly of cooperatives and independently owned grocery stores that value working with an employee-owned, environmentally conscious company that manufactures its own products.

Tierra Farm started as a diversified organic vegetable farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The organic nuts & dried fruit portion of the business started in 1999, as a way to generate income in the slower winter months. That portion of the business has continued to thrive and evolve into a year-round operation, though they still maintain their original farm.

Tierra Farm offers their customers exceptional value through unbeatable quality at prices that are fair both to the consumer and to the farmer. Their products are made without preservatives, added oils or refined sugars, in their own peanut-free facility. They manufacture the products they sell: dry roasting and flavoring nuts and seeds, blending trail mixes, grinding butter, covering nuts and fruits in fair-trade chocolate, and roasting fair trade coffee. Everything is made in small, hand-crafted batches for freshness.

One of their core values has been to cultivate strong relationships with the best organic farmers in the world. They work directly with the farmers from which they source their nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and have worked with some of these farmers for over a decade. Being in direct communication with their farmers allows the preservation of their organic integrity and ensures fair business practices throughout the supply chain.

Tierra Farm handles only Certified Organic products which are grown without synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, or chemical fertilizers. This helps sustain biodiversity, conserves fresh water, and enhances the soil. They generate over 70% of their electricity from solar panels and recycle over 60% of their waste. Their boxes are made from recycled cardboard and their deli cup containers are made from over 50% recycled material – both are recyclable after use. They’re continuously looking for better ways to protect the planet.

Tierra Farm also values the importance of investing in their staff. They have an in-house gym, an in-house chef who cooks daily organic, gluten-free meals for staff – often using fresh produce directly from their farm, a staff masseuse who visits weekly, and they offer many employee health initiatives such as a smoking cessation program that allows their staff to be 100% tobacco-free.

If you’re passing through the Albany area, they invite you to check out their retail store at Tierra Farm’s headquarters in Valatie, NY, where local customers are able to purchase all of their (almost 200) products!

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