Local farmers are stepping in to ensure no families in need go hungry.
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The Rockefeller Foundation

Bob Branham was at his office on a Friday morning when he got an exciting call from a farmer offering him 40,000 pounds of green beans.

“[He] said, ‘I have a field of green beans that have to be picked right now. I have a choice. I can pick them and ship them all to you, free of charge, or I can just leave them in the field,’” Branham remembers.

Leaving them in the field would be great for his soil, the farmer explained, but he’d prefer that the produce goes to better use: feeding hungry families.


Photo by Freddie Collins/Unsplash.

So he called Branham, who works as the Director of Produce Strategy at Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank in Saint Paul, Minnesota

These calls aren’t uncommon; in fact, they play a major role in Second Harvest Heartland and food banks’ efforts to continue providing healthy food for families in need.

40 million Americans don’t have consistent access to nutritious, healthy food, such as fruits and vegetables. This is often due to a combination of economic struggle, and the logistics of trying to find a store with affordable, fresh produce, rather than a corner store stocked with potato chips and ramen.

But the good news is, farmers — both big and small — are helping address the problem.

Surpluses - which occur frequently due to supply and demand shifts, favorable weather or the inability to sell or harvest crops in time - can leave farmers in a bind. Like the farmers Branham works with, they have to decide whether or not to donate, which introduces its own issues. After all, what can a single food bank do with 40,000 pounds of green beans?

“We [end up] getting surplus produce into food banks and we can’t use it [all] ourselves,” Branham explains. “It ends up going to waste in some way.”

If this food doesn’t go to waste, however,  it could help a lot of families.

Think of it this way: The average meal weighs 1.2 lbs of food, give or take. In theory, Branham explains, 40,000 lbs of green beans could end up being about 33,000 “meals.” But since green beans aren’t themselves an entire meal, they could be combined with other rescued food, feeding upwards of a hundred thousand people.

So to ensure that surplus food gets where it’s needed most, Branham focuses on a powerful solution: produce cooperatives.

Produce co-ops, found at food banks like Second Harvest Heartland, function like a “hub” for food banks in their region. They receive donated fruits and vegetables and make sure they’re distributed to food banks that need them, rather than to locations where they’ll go to waste.

When large amounts of produce first arrive at a produce co-op, they’re first stored in a refrigerated warehouse. From there, the produce is “mixed” —  packaged up with other types of fruits and veggies. The co-ops then track and ship the produce off to where it needs to go, in just the right amounts.

Photo by Dane Deaner/Unsplash.

“That way, food banks can take on the amount of produce that they are able to distribute themselves, so they’re not wasting any either,” Branham says.

Farmers like Larry Alsum of Alsum Farms, which donates millions of pounds of surplus potatoes every year to produce cooperatives, are enthusiastic about their potential for impact.

“Nutrition for every human being is a fundamental need,” he says. “As a farmer who has been blessed to always have plenty of food myself, that [is] one of my passions in life . . . to provide food security for all.”

And for farmers like Alsum, feeding families is just one part of what makes produce co-ops great. It’s about the environmental impact, too.

“[Farmers] want to be good stewards of our land, water and resources used,” he says. “Part of this stewardship is to make sure that we keep the food waste to a minimum.”

As the Natural Resources Defense Council reports, the environmental impact of the surplus can be substantial. In fact, 21% of agricultural water use and 19% of all croplands are utilized to grow food that ultimately goes uneaten. Farmers like Alsum want to lessen this burden.

Photo by Spencer Pugh/Unsplash.

When all the food they grow is eaten, farmers ensure that every resource they use — including the water to grow their crops, the nutrients in the fertilizer that they use, and the land that they work — goes towards feeding hungry families, rather than vegetables and fruits that wilt in the fields.

With produce co-ops, it’s a win across the board — for farmers, the environment, and most importantly, families in need.

In fact, co-ops, like those at Second Harvest Heartland, have been so successful that they’re now being introduced to food banks around the country.

With the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, Feeding America now has the backing they need to bring produce co-ops to parts of the country where they don’t currently exist.

Over 200 food banks are part of Feeding America’s network, which means that the impact on food insecure families is only growing. “The more nutritious food [those families] have, the healthier they’re going to be,” Branham says. “[And then] they don’t have to trade off things like medicine or car repairs for food.”

That’s why, these days, when Branham gets a call about fruits or vegetables, he can’t help but feel hopeful.

Photo by Elaine Casap/Unsplash.

After all, those 40,000 pounds of green beans were about much more than food — they were a profound reminder about how one farmer’s selfless act made all the difference, helping thousands of his neighbors and families throughout the Midwest.

“[That farmer] didn’t have to make that phone call,” Branham says. “[He shipped] it from his farm all the way up to me, costing him thousands of dollars, simply so I could have green beans that he could’ve left in the field.”

“That’s every day,” he continues. “That’s the story of the farmer and how their generosity is helping us do the work that we need to do.”

For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot — or will not.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Among many notable moments in Joe Biden's presidential inauguration, Amanda Gorman's recitation of her original poem "The Hill We Climb" stood out as a punctuation mark on the day.

It's perhaps fitting that Gorman herself stands out in several ways. The 22-year-old former National Youth Poet Laureate is the youngest poet to compose and deliver an inaugural poem. Like Joe Biden, she struggled with a speech impediment as a child, which makes reciting her poetry in an event broadcast around the globe all the more impressive. But what's most striking in this moment is what she represents—the bright and hopeful future of America.

For four years, we've had an administration focused on reversing progress and taking the country backwards to a mythical era in which the country was better. The slogan "Make America Great Again" has always implied a yearning to return to some kind of ideal past—one which, in reality, didn't exist (unless you're actually into white supremacy). The U.S. was built on high ideals but has always grappled with the advancement of some at the expense of others, with the legacy of racism and sexism ever-present in our politics, and with injustice being inseparable from our imbalance of political power.

Today, though, we marked a distinct shift in that balance of power. We swore in our first female vice president, in addition to our first non-white vice president. And in adding the voice of a young, Black, female poet to artfully contextualize the occasion, we see an emphasis in leaning into that shift. In Amanda Gorman, we see an America looking to the future as we honestly assess our past.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.