HandPicked–Twelve Ways to Give and Get

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


This is our quick overview of how to offer a little help this holiday season. Here you’ll find twelve ways to give and in some cases get something in return, besides the satisfaction of doing something good for the world.

This time of year, through all the turkey, tinsel and trimmed trees, we all should take time to consider putting some of our shopping dollars toward causes that matter beyond video games, fuzzy slippers and digital backscratchers.

What if we all gave just a few of our shopping dollars to help organizations that work every day to improve our food system, to help small family farmers, to provide hungry people with something good to eat–in other words, giving a little to get the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference.

That’s why we’ve created this special holiday edition of The HandPicked 12. Take a look, see if there’s something here that deserves your support and give a little. You’ll get so much more in return for doing so.

So here is our sampling of a few organizations we think are worth supporting with our contributions. There are many more worthy organizations. Let us know about the ones you like.

1. How can you say ‘no’ to Willie Nelson? When you donate to Farm Aid, your donation supports their work to build a family farm food system that protects our farmers, our communities, our planet and our health–all of us! Each one of us has a role to play in the movement for good food from family farms.

2. Heifer.org is very unique. Perhaps you’ve seen one of their catalogs. They say on their website,”Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs and more. Animals can provide families a hand, increasing access to medicine, school, food and a sustainable livelihood.” It’s a great idea: you donate money for productive animals, Heifer links communities and helps brings sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty.

3. “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.” That’s a quote from FoodTank.org. There are lots of people and organizations thinking hard to come up with practical solutions to our huge food system problems. Food Tank is one of the best and (we believe) deserves support.

4. “The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.” What a terrible statistic. Water.org has taken as their mission to make sure every person has enough fresh, clean water.

5. The Edible Schoolyard Project continues expand and grow from their origins in Berkeley, California. Turning kids into food-aware people is an admirable goal–and, oh boy, they are succeeding. Now comes a brilliant bonus when you show your support. A copy of The Art of Simple Food II (signed by none other than Alice Waters) can be yours for a $50 donation. That would make a great gift for your favorite cook.

6. We all hate factory farming and there is an organization we believe you should consider supporting. Your donation will go toward helping The Humane Farming Association with their landmark anti-cruelty investigations, legislation, media campaigns, and hands-on emergency care and refuge for abused farm animals. Show an animal lover on your list how much you care about this very important issue–it’s the single most important thing you can do to protect farm animals from cruelty and abuse.

7. Oh, do we wish hunger could be banned, abolished, negated, and kicked to the curb. But until that day, we all need to do what we can do to help our friends and neighbors who are hungry to have something good to eat. Chances are you already know all about your local food bank and are staunch supporters of the work they do, but Feeding America has developed a Food Bank Locator for those of us you want to help but just need some information. This is a great tool.

8. Who would have thought that it would become necessary for an organization to exist to defend farmers against criminal prosecution? Unfortunately, it is not only necessary, it’s vital to support the Farm-to Consumer-Legal-defense Fund. Their mission statement reads in part: “The FTCLDF protects the rights of the nation’s family farms, artisan food producers, consumers and affiliate communities to engage in direct commerce free of harassment by federal, state and local government interference. And they will keep doing that with your support.

9. Wow. Food & Water Watch has set themselves up to do a massive job. This is from their website: “Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced.” That’s a mouthful, literally and figuratively. If they’re going to watch the food, water and fish we consume and make sure it’s safe, the least we can do is help out a little with a donation, right?

10. Here’s an interesting idea. How about helping someone who really wants to learn to cook good food to get an education? The International Culinary Center (founded as the French Culinary Institute) believes money shouldn’t stand between talented, motivated, deserving students and a first-rate culinary education. That’s why the Friends of The FCI was founded in 1990 as a non-profit arm of The International Culinary Center. Sometimes it takes a village and sometimes it just takes a little help.

11.Center for Food Safety is a national non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization working to protect human health and the environment. Michael Pollan says this about CFS: “One thing that is distinct about the Center for Food Safety is that they are very effective litigators on these issues and no one has more success in raising issues in the courts…” It takes strong advocacy like CFS is supplying to beat back the egregiousness of big ag.

12. Since 1975, Seed Savers Exchange has been saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Their mission is to ‘collect and distribute thousands of samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners’. In this age of ag behemoths foisting upon us seeds made in a GMO laboratory, it might be a good idea to help support this organization that makes sure we have good seeds, stored safe and sound.

And that’s a few of the sites we think are worth consideration when your gift-giving may include donations of support for worthwhile cause.

We know there are entities that are worthy of donations and that we have not listed them all here. Tell us your favorites.

Photo credit: Staci Strauss