Go help the Whole Planet

Say what you want about Whole Foods (or "whole paycheck," as its also known), but at least some of your money is going to something worthy.

Whole Foods created the Whole Planet Foundation in 2006 to create even better relations with the producers of its products in foreign countries. The foundation does this primarily through the use of microloans -- loans given without collateral or contract, and usually no more than $300 -- so tht the poor can hoist themselves out of poverty with their own self-employment and enterprise.

To date, the foundation has given out over $5 million in microfinancing, helping 33,085 people help themselves -- and, on average, every one of those people helps another four. Two million of those dollars have come through patrons of the store, and Whole Foods is now in the midst of a six-week campaign to raise another $1 million.
The Rocky Mountain region is looking to raise $60,000, much of it during events at all stores this Saturday, March 7. A tasting fair, live music, kids' activities and cooking classes should help bring in the customers, who are encouraged to contribute to the case with one through five dollar coupons that go to the foundation.

Brenda Applehans, assistant to the regional president of Whole Foods' Rocky Mountain region, traveled to Guatemala and Costa Rica last January on one of Whole Planet's volunteer trips. "The children speak their native Mayan dialect and need to learn Spanish to provide them the means to further their education," she remembers. "We also worked on a stove-building project. The families still cook over open flames on the floor and respiratory disease/illnesses are extremely high due to the smoke inhaled. The stoves provide a chimney that eliminates the smoke in the mud homes and the stoves burn 40 percent less firewood!"

During the trip, she and 89 other Whole Foods volunteers did plenty of good. In Guatemala, Applehans says, they taught 175 kids, provided 75,200 meals and constructed 22 stoves. In Costa Rica, they taught 219 students 2,568 hours of ESL (English as a Second Language), planted 6,640 trees, built a community center and started a water-securing system.

Now, don't you feel better about spending $6,000 a pound on a steak? 

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