The Giving Table empowers everyone to do good with food. Learn more, or visit Food Philanthropy 101 to discover NGOs making a difference in the food system

Subscribe to The Giving Table Blog by Email

Follow Me on Pinterest Pinterest


Recipe for Good

Ready to become a philanthropist? The short eBook, Recipe for Good, will show you how. Learn more, or download it now.

Food for Thought
"The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution."
-Paul Cezanne, artist


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!


Dodge Paints a False Picture of American Farming


My first reaction after seeing the Dodge commercial that aired during the Super Bowl went something like this: That was a car commercial? Why wasn't it sponsored by the Organic Trade Association? What does farming have to do with selling cars? Why is Dodge making our farming industry look like a pastoral dreamland instead of what it really is?

That's probably not what Dodge wanted me to think. Dodge got everybody talking about the company and scored its best publicity since the government-funded bailout, but it painted a false picture of what farming looks like in this country. The video above really drives this point home.

Here are a few more reactions from inside the food industry.

"Dodge missed a great opportunity to provide a contemporary view of the American farm.  They were going for nostalgia and heart strings here - and they nailed it. Even so, they could have been more accurate by showing more farmworkers, more women, more minorities, and emerging young farmers..." -Farmer Jane READ MORE.

"The contradictions evident in the Dodge commercial—and in many of the reactions to it—have been ingrained in America’s farm policy since the early- to mid-1900s. This is, after all, a country in which First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had both to request and receive permission from her husband’s USDA, which was “skeptical of amateur farmers,” before she could plant her White House garden." -Reason.com READ MORE.

"God may have made farmers all around the world, but man continues to make new ways to exploit them." -Huffington Post READ MORE.


One Nation, Underfed. + A Video

America is hungry.

On March 1st, the new food documentary A Place at the Tablewill release nationwide in theatres, on demand, and on iTunes. (Check out the trailer below.)

I was able to preview the film last year, and have been eager to share it with you ever since. Here's what Participant Media (the studio that brought you Food, Inc.), has to say about the film.

"Fifty million people in the U.S.—including one in five children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides – as they have in the past – that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all."


Food Bloggers Create Free E-Cookbook to Support Charity:water

800 million people on the planet drink water that's likely to make
them sick. That's 1 in 9 of us. -- charity: water

Consider how much water you use each day. Brushing your teeth, washing hands, washing dishes, taking a shower, spraying your car with a hose, and filling up a pot of water to boil pasta or brew tea. In the United States, we can access water without giving it a second thought, but almost one billion people in the world do not have access to this luxury.

Food Bloggers Give Back

It's the season of giving, and the duo behind Minimalist Baker is doing something to help. Food Bloggers are a generous, passionate group, and 2012 has been a very philanthropic year for the food community. This summer, they rallied behind a campaign to end slavery in U.S. tomato fields. This fall, the husband and wife team behind A Couple Cooks released their cookbook for charity, and just in time for the holidays, a FREE E-Cookbook has been released.

Minimalist Baker teamed up with Kelsey of Happyolks, Erin of Naturally Ella, Kate of Cookie and Kate, Ashley of Edible Perspective and Kristin of Iowa Girl Eats to bring you an amazing E-Cookbook that is completely FREE to download.

The 1 Cup Water e-Cookbook contains 19 delicious recipes. All of the recipes contain at least one cup of water, which serves as a reminder to us that the abundance of clean water we have access to truly is a luxury.

The catch? All they ask in return is that you visit the Charity Water campaign page and consider making a donation. Charity Water puts 100% of funds raised directly toward the cause, which in this case will be to fund water projects in Ethiopia where 60% of the population does not have access to clean, drinking water.

I asked Dana and John to share a little bit about how the project came about, and what inspired them to give back.

Questions for Minimalist Baker

1. What inspired you to collaborate on a digital cookbook this season?

Minimalist Baker: One of the most exciting parts of foodblogging has been networking with other bloggers and foodies. We developed the original concept (each recipe contains one cup of water as a reminder of the luxury we have in abundant clean water), but we knew other food bloggers would bring new variety and creativity that we wouldn't have found any other way.

2. There are so many nonprofit organizations to choose from. What drew you to charity:water?

Minimalist Baker: The charity:water founder, Scott Harrison, spoke at an event I attended last summer. Beyond his remarkable story, he explained not only the great need for water, but the need for great charities. He finished by demonstrating that water changes everything. Water increases overall health of a nation, allows families to work, allows children to return to school, and so much more. Once humbled to realize the luxury I have in ridiculously easy access to water, involving myself in raising money for this cause was unquestionable - I had to do it.

Finally, charity:water has an amazing structure that really makes it unique to other charities. First, 100% of donations go straight to water projects. They have a foundation that pays for all of the credit card processing fees and administration fees. Second, you can track your donation to see what area of the world your donation benefited. Charity:water will email you with periodic updates and the exact location of the well you helped build.

3. What is your goal for this project, and how can readers help?

Minimalist Baker: We are going to raise $1,000 for charity:water by December 31st. We ask that donations be made directly to charity:water. We understand that not everybody can donate, so we ask that everyone at least consider donating their birthday to charity:water.

Lastly, just check out, share, and enjoy our cookbook!


What kind of eater are you?

A carrot isn’t just a carrot anymore. Today, the question of what to eat is loaded with implications about the life you live, your views on health, animal rights, farming, and the food future you envision for yourself and your family.  This means that the side dish you may have roasted for last night’s dinner came sprinkled with salt, pepper and politics.

What is the true origin of your carrots? Are they organic or pesticide-coated? Local or trucked from across country? Part of a seasonal CSA box or purchased on sale from your neighborhood grocery store?

It’s good to ask these questions and to know more about our food system, but as Michael Pollan points out in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it can easily produce a fair amount of stress.  

“As a culture we seem to have arrived at a place where whatever native wisdom about eating has been replaced by confusion and anxiety. Somehow this most elemental of activities—figuring out what to eat—has come to require a remarkable amount of expert help.”

Of all the questions surrounding the food industry, one of the most basic we each must ask ourselves is What exactly should we be eating? The resources below are designed to give you the tools to learn more about the three most popular ways to eat, but the questions don't end here.

As a vegetarian, will you eat fish? If so, all fish, or only sustainable varieties? For omnivores, there are questions surrounding how often you will eat meat, which farms your meat will be sourced from, and if you’ll buy corn fed or grass fed beef. For vegans, will you ease in, gradually giving up dairy, or commit entirely by not only modifying your food habits but also the clothing and skin care products you use?

Coming to terms with our food values will take time, but simply by being here you’re on the right track. Your decision is a personal one, and will affect your giving later on, as well as the way you interact with the food community. Take a look at the resources below and begin considering where you fit on the food spectrum.


Noun: An animal or person that eats food of both plant and animal origin.

  • Eat Well Guide // A directory of sustainably-raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs.
  • Eat Wild // The clearinghouse for information about pasture-based farming.
  • Mark Bittman // New York Times columnist Mark Bittman reports on the depressing transition in our relationship to food: more fast-food chains, prepared meals and junk food, and an accompanying increase in chronic diseases and environmental degradation.
  • MichaelPollan.com // Michael Pollan writes about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment.
  • Seafood Watch // A consumer's guide for sustainable seafood, The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans.


Noun: A person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, esp. for moral, religious, or health reasons.

  • Mercy for Animals // Mercy For Animals is a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal rights organization focused on promoting a vegetarian diet.
  • VegOnline // VegOnline strives to provide its readership with the best tips, advice and information on all things vegetarian from nutrition to recipes to lifestyle.
  • The Vegetarian Resource Group // Vegetarian recipes and nutrition information dedicated to educating the public on vegetarianism and the interrelated issues of health, nutrition, ecology, and ethics.
  • Vegetarian Society // The Vegetarian Society is an educational charity working to support, represent and increase the number of vegetarians in the UK and around the world.
  • Vegetarian Times // The world's largest collection of vegetarian recipes.
  • WildPlanet // Sustainably caught wild seafood


Noun: A person who does not eat or use animal products including meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey. In addition to health, one of the most common reasons people choose a vegan diet is because of concerns over animal cruelty.

  • Farm Sanctuary // Farm Sanctuary works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.
  • Go Vegan USA // The mission of Go Vegan USA is to provide information and resources to our members and local chapters, to be a hub for activist networking, and to encourage others to oppose cruelty and create positive social change by adopting a plant-based diet.
  • KathyFreston.com // Kathy Freston is a New York Times best-selling author of Veganist concentrates on healthy living and conscious eating.
  • Mercy for Animals // Mercy For Animals is a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal rights organization focused on promoting a vegetarian diet.
  • Vegan.com // Vegan.com publishes useful information for both aspiring and long-term vegans. It's also the home of Erik Marcus' daily blog and his VegTalk podcast.