Charity of the Month | Food Empowerment Project
by Sica Schmitz | Posted on November 01 2016
Educating and supporting are at the very foundation of Bead & Reel and so each month we Give Back a portion of each sale to a new, worthy cause that is bettering the world. As a vegan-owned, all vegan fashion company, we use clothing to promote kindness towards people, animals, and the environment, and we are thrilled to be able to give back this month to an organization that is using the same principles with food: the Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.).
Food Empowerment Project seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. Advocating for both human rights and animal rights in the food industry, they have a mission to create justice for all by encouraging healthy food choices that reflect a more compassionate society and spotlight unfair working conditions for produce workers, the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, and the unavailability of healthy foods in low-income areas.
"By making informed choices, we can prevent injustices against animals, people, and the environment. We also work to discourage negligent corporations from pushing unhealthy foods into low-income areas and empower people to make healthier choices by growing their own fruits and vegetables. In all of our work, Food Empowerment Project seeks specifically to empower those with the fewest resources."
Food Empowerment Project is a vegan food justice organization and a registered non-profit 501(c)(3), founded in 2006 by lauren Ornelas. We spoke to lauren about her passion for food advocacy, what we can do to help, and what she's eating right now.
What led you to start the Food Empowerment Project?
After actively organizing in animal rights since the late 1980s, I realized that I wanted to create an organization that no longer worked on issues related to animal and human rights as two separate issues. Instead, I wanted to create an organization that recognized the connections and would fight for justice for all.
What's your favorite part of being involved in the F.E.P.?
We are able to work with and learn from people in a variety of movements, which is incredibly enriching. When we show them how we connect various issues, many times you will see a lightbulb come on, and they get the connection and want to learn more and find out what they can do. I love this as this is part of our goal—working together and creating collective change for justice.
How can our customers find out about F.E.P. events and campaigns in their area?
There are a variety of ways, and we would love to have them join us! We have an email newsletter that we send out once a month. We also have a new events page and we’re also on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
What's one small thing anyone can do to help with food empowerment regardless of location or budget?
I think it is important that people eat with their ethics, meaning that they look at their food choices as a responsibility to themselves and society. Now, even though I know not everyone can follow through on this (due to cost and access), it is important that people look at food as a tool for social change. And this means that we have a greater responsibility to not only eat this way but use our collective voices to try to create change.
Do you have a favorite uplifting story/experience that you can share about something special that has happened through F.E.P.?
Do I have to just pick one? Haha. One of my favorite efforts that we started three years ago is our annual school supply drive for the children of farm workers. We coordinate this, not as an act of charity, but instead as a small way to thank and to give back to the farm workers who pick our food and who essentially feed us.
We have school supply drop-off locations throughout the Bay Area, and it is so beautiful to see the generosity of so many people who donate supplies. (A majority of donations come from vegans and Latinx.)
The school supplies are donated to a variety of groups who work with farm workers – including those in Sonoma County. We also donate to some in the Watsonville area, and this year, when we arrived, the kids were already in line to pick a backpack (full of school supplies). Think about it! These are kids who are excited to receive school supplies—not candy, books or video games! They know this is important. We also get to tell their parents why we do it: as vegans, we thank them for feeding us. We also have received information from a parent saying her daughter could not have gone to school without these supplies.
What's your favorite vegan recipe?
It’s so funny, I read this question as I would need to cook in order to answer it. And I don’t cook! But if it is about what I can put together, I would have to say beans on toast! If I don’t have to cook it (my wonderful husband and animal rights author Mark Hawthorne does the cooking), then my favorite recipe is Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s classic pesto from Vegan with a Vengeance.
What is a biggest misconception you hear about the work you do?
I’d say one of the biggest misconceptions is that people in the communities we work in would be hostile and/or would not want to work with a vegan organization. We have not found that to be true with the farm worker organizations we work with or in the communities where we work on the lack of access to healthy foods. Though it is important to make clear that we do not go into communities unless we are asked to do so, and we do not promote veganism the way many white organizations currently do.
What's your favorite inspiring quote for empowerment?
“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease. When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn.” Cesar Chavez
What does F.E.P. need the most help with from the public right now (and, how can they get involved)?
Like all small non-profits, we need donations, and we are so thankful to Bead & Reel for supporting our work with a donation this month.
We also really hope that people will spread the word about our chocolate list (available as an app), which lists chocolates sold by companies we do and do not recommend based on whether or not they source their chocolate from areas where the worst forms of child labor exist, and that includes slavery. Every company has to make at least one vegan chocolate to be included on our list.
Last, signing and sharing our newest petition regarding Safeway would be greatly appreciated!