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Gifts in Action: An Update from The Lunchbox Fund

The Lunchbox Fund

“This is what you did together: you all have literally turned the love of food into real food. And that will change these children’s lives.”

I’m writing with an exciting and heartwarming update from The Lunchbox Fund! Since raising $5,000 in February during our Feed South Africa campaign, they’ve already implemented a new program to support a group of children at an early development childhood center (ECDC) in Franschoek Valley, outside Cape Town.

ECDCs play a very important role in South Africa, especially in the informal settlements. Very often women will not have the money to cover childcare while they work, and will leave that child with someone who might put them at risk, be careless, inexperienced, young or just unable to provide the child with proper care. Seeing this, women in the townships have created small day care centers, often rooms in the back yards of their small homes or shacks, and take the children in for a nominal fee, offering basic school lessons, safety, education, and food during the day.

A recent survey of primary schoolchildren from a rural area in KwaZulu-Natal Province, revealed a great number of children with persistent micronutrient deficiencies including inadequate vitamin A status (40%) anemia (28%), and iodine deficiency (97%). By sourcing foods from a manufacturer and wholesale provider of low-cost, long life, nutritionally fortified, culturally appropriate foods, The Lunchbox Fund has been able to address the micronutrient deficiencies and provide a nutritionally balanced meal. It also removes the burden of providing food from the ECDC, allowing them to invest their resources in books, toys, kitchen equipment, and aides. The daily meal provided encourages parents to leave their children to be cared for and educated, rather than wandering the streets.

Beginning on March 1, The Lunchbox Fund began providing meals to an additional 208 children at ECDC’s in the Franschoek Valley, a food-producing region that attracts migrant workers, and where the need for nutritional support of children is huge. Our $5,000 has been allocated to The Franschoek Early Childhood Development Program, and will be providing 20,000 meals over the next year to approximately 75-100 children. How amazing!

Last week, I also received a personal email from Topaz Page-Green, The Lunchbox Fund’s founder.

“On behalf of The Lunchbox Fund we really want to Thank You for your incredible effort. We are so proud and grateful to be the recipient of your generous and energetic initiative.  It is truly not often that people follow through with what they set out to do - So what you have created stands out, successfully, a cut above and beyond the rest.

Thank You Thank You Thank You. 20,000 meals goes a long way.”

I hope you all feel incredibly inspired by what we’ve accomplished together. All of your posts, tweets, Facebook messages, and donations have made a real, tangible impact in the lives of children in South Africa whose lives will never be the same.

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NGO Spotlight: Oxfam America

On Fridays, The Giving Table profiles a nonprofit organization that is doing good with food. To discover even more NGOs making a difference in our food system, browse our database by topic or state.


Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. Oxfam saves lives, develops long-term solutions to poverty, and campaigns for social change.


In 1942, a group of Quaker intellectuals, social activists, and Oxford academics formed the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief in response to the plight of refugees in Greece. After the war, Oxfam (a name derived from its postal code abbreviation) continued its work, sending materials and financial aid to groups aiding poor people throughout Europe. As the situation in Europe improved, Oxfam’s attention shifted to the needs of people in developing countries.

A group of volunteers founded Oxfam America in 1970 in response to the humanitarian crisis created by the fight for independence in Bangladesh. Oxfam Great Britain provided a loan for the group, and at first Oxfam America funneled funds exclusively through Oxfam Great Britain. Originally located in Washington, DC, Oxfam America relocated to Boston in 1973, where its small staff worked out of a borrowed room in a West Newton church basement.

In 2010, Oxfam America celebrated its 40th anniversary. While the organization today is a very different place—one that has grown and changed to address both the times and the changing needs of developing countries—several things have remained steadfast: the commitment to addressing issues of injustice and poverty, and the set of core values that has informed our work—legacies passed down through three decades of staff and board members.

Program Overview

Oxfam believes that poverty is wrong, and its approach to "righting" this wrong involves four broad categories: saving lives, developing programs to help people overcome poverty, campaigning for social justice, and changing how people think about poverty.

Oxfam works to address the root causes of poverty by addressing immediate needs in a community first, then shifting its business model to support community-based approaches that change people's lives in a lasting way.



NGO Spotlight: The Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

On Fridays, The Giving Table profiles a nonprofit organization that is doing good with food. To discover even more NGOs making a difference in our food system, browse our database by topic or state.


The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a public-private partnership that seeks to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.

The United Nations Foundation is the Secretariat and host for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The Alliance is an initiative supported by the UN Foundation; the UN Foundation Board of Directors has full fiduciary responsibility for all financial and in-kind resources provided directly to the Alliance.

Program Overview

Nearly 3 billion people in the developing world cook food and heat their homes with traditional cookstoves or open fires. 4 million premature deaths occur every year due to smoke exposure from these methods. Women and children are the most affected.

What is a Clean Cookstove?

Clean cooking solutions are those technologies, fuels, equipment, and practices that address the health and environmental impacts associated with traditional cookstoves.

A clean cookstove is technology and fuel neutral, seeking to advance any and all solutions that are as clean and efficient as possible and are able to reach scale. However, acknowledging that lasting change does not happen overnight, the Alliance will also actively pursue intermediate solutions that can bring about real and measurable benefits to users.


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NGO Spotlight: Heifer International

On Fridays, The Giving Table profiles a nonprofit organization that is doing good with food. To discover even more NGOs making a difference in our food system, browse our database by topic or state.


Heifer International's mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.


It all started with a cow. Moved by the plight of orphans and refugees of the Spanish Civil War as he ladled out meager rations of powdered milk, Dan West, an Indiana farmer, volunteer relief worker and Church of the Brethren member, grasped that the people needed "a cow, not a cup"—cows that could produce milk so families would not have to depend on temporary aid. From that simple idea, Heifer International was born.

Today, Heifer empowers families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity by linking communities with markets and sustainable agricultural practices. New incomes provided by Heifer's animals combined with training programs, allows recipients to provide for their families and send children to school.

Program Overview

Heifer's 12 "Cornerstones" have been used for more than 65 years, and guide communities to self-reliance. They include practices like nutrition and income, improving the environment, and improved animal management.

It's most fundamental cornerstone, and most widely recognized, is its "passing on the gift" program. Participants are required to pay it forward in their own communities by donating offspring to another family in need. 

Three of the twelve cornerstones focus on food and agriculture:

Nutrition and Income. Heifer recipients enjoy improved diets and finances through the consumption and/or sale of milk, eggs, cheese, honey, meat and wool. Other Heifer recipients use draft power to increase crop yields or get products to market more easily. It's not uncommon for project participants to share extra milk with their neighbors or to loan out their oxen to help other farmers till their fields.

Improved Animal Management.  In order for livestock to be a healthy and productive part of any farm, Heifer first ensures that the species and breed is an appropriate fit for the area and for the families who will receive the gift animals. Project participants then attend trainings to ensure they can provide the animals with adequate feed, water, shelter and health care. When animals are healthy and productive, families benefit and there is a favorable impact on the environment.

Improving the Environment. Caring for the Earth is a huge part of every Heifer project. Animals are chosen based largely on how appropriate they are for the local environment. Will they overburden or pollute the water supply? Will it be difficult to find or grow abundant fodder? Reforestation is a facet of Heifer projects in denuded areas, and manure and crop residues are used to reinvigorate anemic soil.


Since 1944, Heifer has helped more than 12 million families in more than 125 countries move toward greater self-reliance through the gifts of livestock and training in environmentally sound agriculture. Independent evaluators from Western Michigan University report, “It is beyond doubt that in all 20 of the countries we have examined, Heifer has brought large overall benefits to very large numbers of low-income rural families.”

Heifer's learning centers in Rutland, Massachusetts and Perryville, Arkansas attract more than 50,000 people a year to particpate in seminars, service projects, and in-depth learning experiences.

Get Involved

CEO Pierre Ferrari describes giving to Heifer as "an opportunity for people to do what most humans want to do all the time, which is to extend love to other people." He emphasizes that it's not just a one-time gift, but that Heifer's model is "an opportunity to give a gift to someone who can use it and leverage it dramatically for a better life."

Heifer pioneered the nonprofit gift catalog by enabling donors to purchase the gift of a heifer for a family in need. Today, you can choose from dozens of animals including honeybees, ducks, and pigs. This is a very tangible way to give back and know that your contribution is making a difference.

Heifer is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Participate in a local Library Program, recruit friends and family to fundraise with Team Heifer on your own donation page, or sign up for Heifer's newsletter to learn more.

Have you supported Heifer International in the past?

Share your experience in the comments!

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