Holiday Food Gifts That Give Back

Your shopping can help support hungry Americans, smallholder farmers around the globe, and Native American water access.
(Photo: Manuela/Getty Images)
Dec 5, 2016· 3 MIN READ
Sarah McColl has written for Yahoo Food, Bon Appétit, and other publications. She's based in Brooklyn, New York.

The only appropriate gifts, Emerson wrote, are fruit, flowers, and gifts of the self. So with the holiday season upon us, here is a list that would meet his approval. These gifts for the food lovers on your list are bound to be received as welcome additions to cupboards and kitchens, but they also fill more than a stocking: Think living wages, community facilities, and charitable giving that makes a real impact.

Sugar and Spice

(Photo: Courtesy Frontier Co-op)

Member-owned since 1976, Frontier Co-op gives 4 percent of its annual net savings back to the communities where it sources its products. That means a dental clinic in Guatemala for the Maya families who grow cardamom and allspice and a school that provides lodging and food for the children of cinnamon growers in Vietnam. At home in Norway, Iowa, employee volunteers planted 21 acres of tallgrass prairie in 1992 that later became part of the United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary Network, a group dedicated to restoring and preserving natural habitats and native plants. The spices, which include ready-for-dinner blends such as herbes de Provence, alder-smoked salt, and garam masala, are nonpareil.

Visibility in Black and White

(Photo: Courtesy The Female Farmer Project)

The Female Farmer Project’s Audra Mulkern partnered with artist and author Anna Brones to create these limited-edition greeting cards. The “I Look Like a Farmer” paper-cut illustrations are based on portraits Mulkern shot during her multiyear project documenting the rise of women in agriculture. The cards are printed in Seattle by Girlie Press, a women-owned business, and half the proceeds go toward supporting women farmers through the microloan organization Kiva and U.S.-based Women Food & Ag Network.

A Well of Water and Goodwill

The staff of Dig Deep was out of the office last week, helping to protect the water rights of the Standing Rock Reservation, but it is still working to bring water to the Navajo Nation too. The Navajo Water Project will bring solar power and running water to 75 families in New Mexico. The project is community-led and supported by proceeds from gifts like these hand-beaded leather cuffs and Pendleton blankets woven with Navajo designs.

Rise and Shine

(Photo: Courtesy Counter Culture Coffee)

Counter Culture Coffee is mostly known for its obsessive attention to sourcing, roasting, and brewing the best cup of coffee with the world’s best beans. The company is less known for Seeds, an initiative aimed at promoting food security and environmental stewardship in the communities where the beans are sourced. In November and December, a nickel from each bag of coffee sold goes to Seeds’ climate change adaptation program, which was developed with research from the Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. The annual holiday brew, Iridescent, kicks in an additional donation and brews up a cup with sweet notes of dark chocolate and berry.

Not a Fruit Basket (Praise!)

(Photo: Courtesy Food Forward)

With Food Forward’s No Fruit of the Month Club, you guarantee zero fruit baskets stuffed with paper streamers, waxy apples, and underripe pears for folks who can shop for fine fruit themselves. Instead, your $60 gets 500 pounds of produce from the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market to hunger relief agencies, which then distribute it to people in need.

(Photo: Courtesy The Basket Room)

On Second Thought...

We have nothing against fruit baskets when they’re like this. Fill one of these baskets with blood oranges, and you’ve given a friend the gift of jewel-toned juice while supporting a woman-owned small business. All Across Africa, a certified B Corporation, connects 3,200 artisans and 45 different cooperatives with fans of bright, handwoven African baskets. Want one for your bike? The Basket Room, a woman-owned company, works directly with weaving cooperatives in Ghana to make a version that hooks onto your handlebars.

(Photo: Courtesy Hot Bread Kitchen)

Spare Them Fruitcake; Send Stollen

In place of fruitcake, send the nice people on your list fruit-filled, Dresden-style stollen and rich chocolate cherry rolls baked by Hot Bread Kitchen. In the paid six-month bakers-in-training program, one of New York’s leading suppliers of artisanal multiethnic breads teaches women the trade of bread baking and includes lessons in English as a second language, bakery math, and science. After the training, all the program’s graduates are placed in full-time fair-wage positions with access to benefits and opportunities for further development. Hot Bread Kitchen, which began in founder Jessamyn Rodriguez’s home kitchen, also offers an incubator program for burgeoning food businesses that includes commercial kitchen space and mentoring.

Products for Change (and a Better Pantry)

This gift set, called A Product of Change Collection, elevates bedtime with a traditional Filipino version of hot chocolate and upgrades a pantry staple to something award-winning—all while providing 370 meals to students in the Philippines and Tanzania. Askinosie Chocolate, named one of Forbes’ 25 best small companies in America, is known not only for its bean-to-bar methods but for profit sharing with the farmers in Ecuador, Honduras, Tanzania, and the Philippines from whom it sources. Want a gift with more chocolate? The peppermint bark sells out every year.