Food company profits fund the development of philanthropic endeavors

People living in poverty in the United States and around the world are improving their economic and health circumstances as a result of grants and loans funded by profits derived from food-related businesses.

What happens when a love for food and cooking turns into a venture that has given away $370 million to non-profit organizations around the world between 1982 and 2012? This is the story of Paul Newman’s charitable foundation, Newman’s Own Foundation.

The story of Newman’s Own food products and the establishment of his Foundation is found at its website: “In 1980, Paul Newman and his pal A.E. Hotchner filled empty wine bottles with his homemade salad dressing to give as gifts for the holidays. After friends and neighbors came clamoring for refills, Paul and “Hotch” were convinced that the special recipe was good enough to be bottled and sold. Newman’s Own Salad Dressing was officially launched in 1982 and, surprisingly, became an instant success. The first year of profits exceeded $300,000 and Paul declared, ‘Let’s give it all away to those who need it.’ Without ever taking personal compensation, Paul shared his good fortune. It was a unique concept at the time giving away all after-tax profits but he believed that helping others was just the right thing to do.”

Over the years, Newman’s product lines expanded to pasta sauce, lemonade, microwave popcorn and salsa. Today there are over 100 products sold in the U.S. and abroad. In 2005, the Newman’s Own Foundation was established and according to its website, “The enterprise remains true to Paul’s original mission and values, using only all-natural, high-quality foods and donating 100% of profits and royalties to charity.”

One example of an organization supported by the Foundation is Edible Schoolyard NYC. It is a non-profit working to incorporate health, wellness and sustainability into New York City’s public school curriculum.

Another grantee of the Foundation is Wholesome Wave. According to its website, “Wholesome Wave works to empower historically excluded urban and rural communities to make healthier food choices by increasing access to, and affordability of, fresh, locally-grown food. The organization’s innovative programs address issues of food insecurity, farm viability, economic vitality of local communities, and diet-related diseases.”

In addition to Newman’s Own Foundation, another foundation that is financially supported by Whole Foods Market is the Whole Planet Foundation. “[Their] mission is poverty alleviation in developing–world countries where Whole Foods Market sources products…The Whole Planet Foundation partners with microfinance institutions in Latin America, Africa and Asia.” The Foundation, by utilizing micro credit, seeks to “unleash the energy and creativity of every human being we work with in order to create wealth and prosperity in emerging economies.” Micro credit is most often defined as the lending of small amounts of money at low interest rates to start up businesses or individuals which are usually people of little economic means.

Thanks to the selflessness of people like Paul Newman and companies like Whole Foods Market, people all over the world are beneficiaries of programs to help improve their living conditions.

If you have questions about food-related programs in your community and across Michigan, visit the Community Food Systems workgroup’s page on the Michigan State University Extension website.

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