Natural Foods Merchandiser

25 Nonprofits That Blazed a Trail

From saving endangered plants to feeding the hungry, the nonprofit organizations listed here have bolstered the naturals industry. Many everyday practices, from organic certification to collecting unsold products for food banks, began as initiatives from these folks, and we have benefited from their foresight, perseverance and tenacity. The "wish list" question went like this: "If your organization received a windfall like the more than $200 million bequest from Joan Kroc to National Public Radio, what would you do with it?" If readers feel inspired by any wish list item, we've included Web contact information.

American Botanical Council
Austin, Texas
Founded: 1988
Executive Director: Mark Blumenthal
Mission: to provide education using science-based and traditional information to promote responsible use of herbal medicine. Its constituents are the public, researchers, educators, health-care professionals, industry and media.
Major accomplishments: Publication of quarterly peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram and two books, The Complete German Commission E Monographs and The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Also provides herbal educational content to Web sites and expanded safety information for herbal products labels.
Has there been a time in your history when you feel you dodged a bullet? "Surviving the aftermath of 9/11, combined with a slumping economy and reductions in charitable giving. This is an accomplishment for which ABC, and some other nonprofit organizations, can be most grateful."
Wish list:

  • Add new programs and projects to our list of educational efforts
  • Increase staff size to address many research and educational projects that we have not been able to adequately address
  • Increase salary and benefits to the loyal staff members who have been here for so many years
  • Add two new rainwater harvesting tanks to our existing system so we are less dependent on city water for our extensive herbal gardens
  • Expand the size of our education building to be able to accommodate larger numbers of people for educational programs, and expand the existing herbal library.

American Herbal Pharmacopoeia
Scotts Valley, Calif.
Founded: 1995
Executive Director: Roy Upton
Mission: Establishes national standards for the manufacturing and marketing of herbal products.
Major accomplishment: "Producing what has been nationally and internationally recognized as the most authoritative and comprehensive work on herbal medicines in the English language."
Dodged a bullet? "We have yet to overcome our greatest challenge: attaining industry-wide support for building a strong foundation for herbal medicine in the United States. From their inception, AHP monographs were acknowledged domestically and internationally by researchers, industry and regulatory authorities for their scientific credibility, comprehensiveness and standard of excellence. However, this does not translate into financial support for nonprofit organizations, especially in a down market. ? However, perhaps we have dodged a bullet considering that we have survived in a down market, when other nonprofits with greater longevity than AHP have not."
Wish list:

  • Develop monographal standards for 500 botanicals, with accompanying botanical and chemical reference standards against which to test products
  • Have a fully integrated certification program of raw material suppliers complying with AHP standards
  • Develop training materials for herbal medicine quality control, including providing training programs to manufacturers and marketers of herbal products
  • Develop a finished-product certification program for products complying with AHP standards
  • Have full testing services to test products claiming to comply with AHP standards.

American Herbal Products Association
Silver Spring, Md.
Founded: 1983
President: Michael McGuffin
Mission: "AHPA is the national trade association and voice of the herbal supplements industry, the only trade association devoted solely to herbal issues. AHPA's mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products, and its committees generate self-regulations to ensure the highest level of responsibility with respect to the way herbs are manufactured, labeled and sold."
Major accomplishment: AHPA's Herbs of Commerce was adopted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its dietary supplements labeling rules.
Wish list: "Spend half on research related to high-quality herbal raw materials and half to correct the misinformation that our critics have communicated to the public."

American Herbalists Guild
Canton, Ga.
Founded: 1989
President: Aviva Jill Romm
Mission: to represent the voices and goals of herbalists specializing in the clinical use of plants as medicines.
Major accomplishment: "to date, the AHG has built itself into the largest nonprofit herbal practitioners' organization in the United States. Developing educational guidelines, building a professional medical herbalist community, bridging gaps between health professionals and lay herbalists, developing the Registered Herbalist criteria, establishing a peer-reviewed journal and, perhaps most importantly, protecting traditional herbal medicine—these have been our greatest accomplishments."
Dodged a bullet? "Initially, there was some resistance in the herbal community about creating an organization dedicated toward establishing professional standards. [The resistance was] based on fears of ? losing the ? diversity of practices, traditions and standards represented in traditional medicine in the United States. AHG has been very sensitive to these concerns and has worked carefully to incorporate awareness of them into our plans. While there will always be highly qualified herbalists who remain outside of an organization that promotes specific standards for herbal medicine, our current membership of 1,200 appears to be an indication that such concerns are being addressed well by the organization and that much of the resistance has been softened into cooperation."
Wish list:

  • Support the development and administration of national herbal educational programs for practitioners, pharmacists, retailers and others using botanical medicines
  • Lobby for national health-freedom legislation
  • Fund Native American youth to study the traditional medicine of their people and work toward preservation of traditional, indigenous medicine
  • Support plant conservation efforts
  • Work toward the integration of herbal medicine into mainstream medical practice.

America's Second Harvest
Founded: 1979
President and CEO: Robert Forney
Mission: to create a hunger-free America by distributing food and grocery products through a nationwide certified affiliate network, increasing public awareness of domestic hunger and advocating for public policies that benefit America's hungry.
Major accomplishment: "Celebrating our 25th anniversary next year [and] building a national network that is the largest and most diverse social service organization in the country. Being able to secure and deliver more than 2 billion pounds of food per year to approximately 25 million Americans. Creating large job-training capabilities that produce hundreds of trained commercial kitchen personnel and more than 2 million meals per year."
Dodged a bullet? "Experiencing the dramatic increases in food need in the two years following 9/11 and greater difficulty in securing new levels of dollars and food donation sources."
Wish list: "Invest a portion into building our fund-raising capability, which would be required to sustain program growth. Then expand programs:

  • Immediately increase national sourcing and delivery of fresh produce and protein from approximately 100 million pounds up to more than 300 million pounds annually, thereby Also addressing obesity in a very significant way
  • Create a Small Family Farm Fund that would allow us to harvest surplus crops that would be wasted and generate a new market for farm surplus that today is not harvested
  • Build a national network of mixing centers that would allow us to route all donations to locations that would temporarily store the donations and build mixed loads of grocery products for our network of more than 213 food banks."

California Certified Organic Farmers
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Acting President: Peggy Miars
Mission: CCOF promotes and supports organic agriculture in California and elsewhere through an organic certification program for growers, processors, handlers and retailers; programs to increase awareness of and demand for certified organic products and to expand public support for organic agriculture; and advocacy for governmental policies that protect and encourage organic agriculture.
Major accomplishment: "CCOF has experienced more than 30 years of positive action as a leader in organic certification and has played a major role in developing organic certification standards at both the state and national levels. That role began in 1978 when CCOF members wrote one of the first organic certification standards in the country. The California Organic Foods Act of 1979 and the California Organic Foods Act of 1990 were both based on CCOF's original standards. The USDA's National Organic Standards were, in turn, based on the California Organic Foods Act of 1990. CCOF now provides certification services for the entire organic supply chain, from the farm to processing and retailing."
Dodged a bullet? "In 2000, the USDA determined that certifying organizations, now quasi 'agents' of the USDA issuing a government license, must be free from conflict of interest to assure consumers that products are truly organic according to the NOP rule. This meant that CCOF certified members could no longer oversee the same certification program that certifies their own businesses. CCOF was forced to restructure or face nonaccreditation by the USDA. After several proposals and much negotiation, success came with the formation of a limited liability corporation, separate from the member-directed CCOF Inc., the politically active trade association. Noncertified members of the organic community now direct CCOF Certification Services LLC, while CCOF Inc. retains control of the name and seal."
Wish list:

  • Create programs to help farmer, processor and livestock members market their products and services
  • Streamline forms, procedures and fees to reduce barriers to organic certification
  • Create an endowment fund to ensure ongoing support and promotion of organic production practices
  • Endow a research fund to continue to find effective organic pest control and fertility practices
  • Create a place, either physical or virtual, that would serve as an information clearinghouse for organic producers, processors and consumers.

The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
Founded: 1999
Executive Director: Craig Winters
Mission: The national grassroots consumer campaign is charged with lobbying Congress and the president to pass legislation that would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United States.
Major accomplishment: "Our Web site at has become a major Internet portal for information and activism regarding genetically engineered foods."
Dodged a bullet? "No."
Wish list: "Well, after I got back from Disneyland, I would hire a larger staff, open up a Washington, D.C., office and create a lot more educational tools. And with that amount of money, we could even do double-blind safety testing of genetically engineered foods to determine whether or not some people are experiencing allergic reactions from eating these foods. The public is being made guinea pigs in the largest feeding experiment in human history. Are genetically engineered foods safe or harmful? A $200 million gift would go a long way in helping to answer that question."

Chefs Collaborative
Founded: 1993
National Chairman: Peter Hoffman, chef and owner of Savoy in New York
Mission: "Dedicated to supporting artisanal producers, many of whom are preserving valuable traditions; local growers, who enrich our communities by providing our restaurants and farmers' markets with distinctive, delicious, seasonal produce; all those who work toward sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, humane animal husbandry and well-managed fisheries; and conservation practices that lessen our impact on the environment."
Major accomplishments: "Slowly gaining ground and credibility among culinary audiences and consumers. Demystifying the 'eco-chef' image. Receiving Kellogg Foundation and Packard Foundation grants."
Dodged a bullet? "The biggest difficulty the organization has encountered to date was a values clash on the board between those who wanted to work with all food businesses to encourage operators to move toward more sustainable businesses no matter where they were in their current practices, and those who felt that some businesses were too 'unsustainable' to work with and that the organization should take a stand against those types of operations. The discussion was brought about by board member Rick Bayless' commercial for Burger King. This difference in opinions resulted in the creation of a Conflict of Mission policy. Another main challenge is holding true to our values while trying to keep our businesses running."
Wish list:

  • Invest in a hefty endowment to ensure Chefs Collaborative's place in perpetuity
  • Create a conference center that houses Chefs Collaborative's offices, a garden and test/demo kitchens, and that would offer educational programs open to the public and school groups
  • Establish public pilot schools in six regions of the country that, as part of their curriculum, would educate children about how food is grown, prepared, experienced and reinvested in the earth for a sustainable food system.

Citizens for Health
Washington, D.C.
Founded: 1992
Executive Director: Ana Micka
Mission: A national grassroots advocacy organization working on behalf of the natural health consumer to protect and expand natural health choices.
Major accomplishments: Save Our Supplements Campaign, 1993-1994. Mobilized consumers to pass the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act. Keep Organic Organic Campaign. Successfully overturned the USDA's attempt to water down the standards for organically produced foods in 1998 by generating 375,000 letters to the USDA. Citizens for Health partnered with the Organic Trade Association and Sustain on this national campaign.
Dodged a bullet? "In 1998, the FDA attempted to undermine DSHEA by quietly proposing new regulations on structure/function label claims allowed under the regulation. FDA proposed to classify regularly occurring conditions, such as pregnancy, aging, menopause, PMS and headache, as diseases, thereby severely restricting consumer access to valuable health information. The proposed FDA rule ran counter to the intent of DSHEA and would have prevented the use of most statements of nutritional support on supplements labels, with the result of negating the public's right to access truthful information about the known effects of supplements. Within six weeks, Citizens for Health generated 175,000 consumer responses to the FDA and a victory for consumer health."
Wish list: "Buy Congress. Actually, we would launch a significant national media campaign to promote the benefits of natural approaches to health and organize a grassroots constituency millions strong to create a balanced health agenda more reflective of the desires of the American people-one that devotes as much research, education and coverage resources to natural health alternatives as it does to prescription drugs, chemotherapy, surgery and industrial agriculture."

Co-op America
Washington, D.C.
Founded: 1982
Executive Director: Alisa Gravitz
Mission: Co-op America provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to address today's social and environmental problems.
Dodged a bullet? "After 9/11 and the anthrax scares in Washington, D.C., we didn't get our mail for four months! The post office we had all of our mail coming into was closed after employees were exposed to anthrax, so we didn't receive any membership checks, renewals, etc. We have such an amazing membership base that we survived the temporary crisis and are going stronger than ever."
Wish list:

  • Create a clean energy future in the United States through the use of affordable solar power
  • Dramatically increase the market for fair trade products
  • Reach millions of people with the message about how conscience-based consuming and investing can create a better world for people and the planet.

Council for Responsible Nutrition
Washington, D.C.
Founded: 1973
President: Annette Dickinson
Mission: "to improve the environment for member companies to responsibly market dietary supplements by enhancing confidence among consumers, media, health-care professionals and decision makers. By taking a leadership role in advocating for public policy based on sound science and the ability for consumers to have access to a wide variety of high-quality, safe and beneficial dietary supplement products, the CRN best represents its member companies' interests."
Major accomplishment: "On a broad spectrum, the fact that we have built a reputation as a credible advocacy organization that takes science-based positions and that we have managed to maintain the confidence of our member companies throughout our 31-year history. Providing that kind of global perspective, combined with the ability to assist members on a day-to-day basis by offering answers to regulatory or scientific challenges, helps make our industry stronger and makes membership in CRN a worthwhile investment. CRN benefits from member confidence, and the industry benefits from having a strong trade association."
Dodged a bullet? "These days, it feels like our industry is being used for target practice on a regular basis. We are pulling together a stewardship program and other related initiatives that we believe will push the responsible part of this industry to the forefront and hopefully allow us to take off our bulletproof vests and get back to the business of talking about all the good this industry does for the 150 million Americans who take our products each year."
Wish list: "We'd start a CRN foundation that would create international programs to increase grants for scientific research on supplements, engage in large-scale education programs on the science-based benefits of supplements and partner with charitable organizations to donate supplements to needy populations."

Consumers Union's Project
Yonkers, N.Y.
Founded: 2000
Director: Urvashi Rangan
Mission: "The site takes consumers behind the scenes of eco-labels and allows them to see which types of products carry the claims; who, if anyone, is behind the label; and what, if any, standards are required to use the label. It is not always clear whether a claim is credible just by reading it or looking at a pretty logo. Our goal is to educate and empower consumers, helping them to make more informed purchasing decisions and to make their views known on environmental and social policies affecting the marketplace."
Major accomplishment: " now includes labels on food, household cleaners, personal hygiene products and wood. We take an active role on policy issues related to labeling and keep the public informed about significant changes, especially those that undermine the worth of a label or claim. Recently, for example, people visiting the site could send a letter to Secretary Ann Veneman, urging the USDA to uphold the integrity of its organic label. We have Also advised consumers about which labels do and don't help when it comes to serious public health concerns, such as mad cow disease, antibiotic resistance and mercury consumption from fish."
Dodged a bullet? "The project has been fortunate in this regard. Certifiers and industry trade groups have approached us with concerns about information we provide, but in each instance we have been able to satisfy their concerns and in many cases the certifier improved the claim. Consumers Union bases its reputation squarely on the credibility of its information."
Wish list: "Each label record can take anywhere from 10 to 30 hours to complete. ? With a growing demand for truthful and unbiased information and a continuing influx of the number of 'green' labels on store shelves, additional funds would secure our ability to investigate and evaluate new claims, add energy and recycling claims, and provide more information about which labels can help people make better purchasing decisions. There is Also the potential for to become a far more interactive site. The virtual kitchen and the trivia questions we already have are a start, but we would like to bring 'green' issues to life by developing animated video clips and interactive tools and addressing health, safety and other environmental issues, such as animal-welfare practices and environmental problems with fish."

Environmental Working Group
Washington, D.C.
Founded: 1993
Executive Director: Kenneth Cook
Mission: A nonprofit research and advocacy organization that uses the power of information to protect public health and the environment.
Major accomplishment: "Our role in developing public awareness and publishing research encouraged passage of the landmark pesticide reform law—the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. [The Environmental Protection Agency] has not enforced FQPA anywhere near stringently enough, but the law has improved protection of kids (and the rest of us) from some high-risk pesticides and has the potential to do much more. Another highlight: Forcing an apology from John Stossel of ABC News for reporting nonexistent lab test results in his baseless attack on organic food."
Dodged a bullet? "Opponents in the pesticide and chemical industries, and in agribusiness, take potshots at us all the time. But it turns out they're firing blanks."
Wish list: "I'd use it to launch a massive program to test fresh and processed foods for pesticides and other contaminants, name names, and publicize the results in full-page weekly newspaper ads to direct people to organic foods and to producers and brands that are low in toxic chemicals."

The Healthy Foundation/Vitamin Relief USA
Murrieta, Calif.
Founded: 1999
Executive Director: Michael Morton
Mission: The group provides daily multivitamins to children, families and seniors at risk for nutritional deficiency, and implements educational and research programs to support this mission. For less than 10 cents a day per person, The Healthy Foundation/Vitamin Relief USA provides daily multivitamins to more than 15,000 at-risk children at more than 470 collaborative distribution sites in 40 states and to more than 1,000 at-risk seniors in a pilot program in Riverside, Calif.
Major accomplishments: Received first-ever "Impact Award" by the California Association of Non-Profits. Honored with the "Celebrating Excellence Award" from the Campaign for Better Health. Awarded the first-ever "Celebrating Seniors" Award from Senior Friendly Communities of America. Honored with the "Hero Award" by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance. Received an earmarked appropriation for $500,000 from the U.S. Congress "to study the impact of vitamin intake on the academic performance of at-risk youth."
Wish list: "Endow the organization in perpetuity so that we can continue to provide daily multivitamins to more than 1 million at-risk children and seniors in the United States each day. Expand our research on the positive impact that multi-vitamin supplementation programs have on preventive health, improved health, overall quality of life for seniors, the academic performance of children, and the decrease in violent behavior in society, thereby lessening the taxpayer burden required to address these issues and ensuring a strong and healthy nation in the future for our children and grandchildren."

Marine Stewardship Council
Founded: 1997
Executive director, Americas: Jim Humphreys
Mission: The Marine Stewardship Council is based in London and has two regional offices: an Americas office in Seattle and an Asia-Pacific office in Sydney, Australia. The MSC, whose mission is to safeguard the world's seafood supply by promoting the best environmental choice, became independent of its founders in 1999 and the first fisheries were certified in 2000.
Major accomplishment: Ten certified fisheries around the world, and more than 200 products in 17 countries carry the MSC eco-label.
Wish list: "We would complete policy work under way and launch a branding campaign in western Europe and the United States to make more consumers and businesses aware of the logo and how it helps them identify the best environmental choices in seafood—those that have not been overfished or harvested in ways that harm the ocean."

National Center for the Preservation of Medicinal Herbs
Rutland, Ohio
Founded: 1998
Executive Director: Colin Donohue
Mission: Working with concerned citizens and others in the industry, the Center plans to protect and expand colonies of at-risk medicinal herbs, research growing methods to ensure future viability, encourage farmers to organically cultivate these herbs in their woodlands, and educate the public about at-risk medicinal herbs.
Major accomplishment: The Center "recently took leadership in the Eastern U.S. region on building a network of researchers working on Eastern forest-growing medicinal herbs."
Dodged a bullet? "We have been struggling financially, and it is only through the dedication of Farm Manager and Education Coordinator Chip Carroll and other program staff that we have been able to survive and do the great work we have done."
Wish list:

  • Establish a comprehensive program for inventory and monitoring of medicinal herbs in danger of being over-harvested
  • Launch a Natural Products for the Future program through which we would establish sustainable harvest levels for a variety of plants and determine best cultivation practices for forest-growing of these plants
  • Establish a Fish for a Lifetime program that would support rural people in Appalachia in developing sustainable income opportunities
  • The Sustainable Future Fund would establish a research and development program that would invest in brilliant young leaders from the region
  • The Earth in Harmony Policy Initiative would establish a policy research and advocacy fund

Organic Consumers Association
Little Marais, Minn.
Founded: 1998
Executive Director: Ronnie Cummins
Mission: to unite America's 30 million organic consumers into a potent force for change, both in the marketplace and in the political arena.
Major accomplishment: "Building up a nationwide network of 600,000 organic consumers over the past six years to challenge industrial agriculture, genetic engineering and globalization, while safeguarding organic standards and promoting sustainable agriculture and fair trade."
Dodged a bullet? "Three times (1998, 2002-2003 and 2004) OCA and the organic community have been forced to battle the USDA to preserve strict organic standards."
Wish list: "We'd hire grassroots organizers in each of the nation's 435 congressional districts to speed up the nation's transition to a truly healthy, sustainable and equitable system of agriculture, commerce and government."

Organic Farming Research Foundation
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Founded: 1990
Executive Director: Bob Scowcroft
Mission: to sponsor research related to organic farming practices, to disseminate research results to organic farmers and to growers interested in adopting organic production systems, to educate the public and decision makers about organic farming techniques.
Major accomplishment: "Building a diversified organic research, advocacy and educational foundation on behalf of the nation's certified organic farmers. Over the last 14 years, we have awarded $1.4 million in support of more than 220 organic research and education projects and delivered the research results to almost 8,000 certified organic farmers free of charge. Correspondingly, our policy program has drafted and helped successfully pass legislation that will award $15 million in support of organic systems research over the next five years."
Dodged a bullet? "It depends who's been shooting and how one defines a bullet. It seems that maintaining a sound financial structure requires weekly (sometimes daily) attention. We missed payroll for eight or nine weeks in 1994, and the last two years have been financially challenging, though in not so dire terms. That's why we're working on launching our endowment fund in the coming months."
Wish list: "Build a mighty endowment fund, expand our grantmaking program to include policy and educational grants, open a Washington, D.C., office and invest in local scientist/organic farmer alliances around every land grant institution in the United States. In other words, we would organize the most effective grower/consumer/industry/scientist grassroots force in support of organic agriculture that's ever been seen. We would rewrite the 'charge' to our land grant institutions. We would rename the Farm Bill to the Food Bill and place the needs of family farmers, consumers and local solutions to hunger on the top of the list."

Organic Material Review Institute
Eugene, Ore.
Founded: 1996
Executive Director: Laura Morrison
Mission: to provide professional, independent and transparent review of materials allowed in the production, processing and handling of organic food and fiber.
Major accomplishment: "For certifiers, inspectors and even some producers, OMRI publishes up-to-date lists of brand-name products, saving them the time and effort in having to verify [national organic standards] compliance themselves. As a nonprofit service provider, OMRI can protect the confidentiality of proprietary product formulas, which manufacturers are reluctant to give out to certifiers and producers."
Dodged a bullet? "In many respects, OMRI dodges bullets every day. Our services put us in the middle of a diverse mix of customers whose interests and needs vary. We Also have to stick to the regulations of the USDA, EPA and FDA, which can at times be unpopular."
Wish list: "For our Brand Name Program [which reviews product compliance with USDA organic standards], we would develop a state-of-the-art electronic application and review process. We'd Also expand our services by setting up testing labs for all types of products we review. And to complete the picture, OMRI would establish a research farm for doing product efficacy testing and experimentation that would help organic farmers understand better which organic methods and materials work and which ones don't."

Protected Harvest
Sacramento, Calif.
Founded: 2001
Executive Director: Carolyn Brickey
Mission: Advancing and certifying the use of environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture practices through the development of stringent, transparent and quantifiable standards; incentive-based eco-labeling; and public education.
Major accomplishment: "Protected Harvest ? certifies farmers' adherence to region-specific and crop-specific environmental standards. Our peer-reviewed methodology has attracted the interest of environmental organizations and mainstream agricultural groups alike, affording us the unique opportunity to accomplish what no organization has yet to do—create a credible market-incentive mechanism that will stimulate the commercial-scale adoption of reduced-risk practices.
"Protected Harvest-certified foods are accountable to the consumer and include a complete chain of custody. In Wisconsin, for example, Healthy Grown potato growers participating in our program achieved an impressive 37 percent reduction in 'environmental impact units,' as compared to industry baseline data from four years earlier. It's the farmers, however, who deserve recognition for that accomplishment. We just document their success."
Dodged a bullet? "Although many of our staff have deep roots in the organic community, there was some concern that our approach would be misunderstood. We are glad to report that that has not happened. In fact, we feel that we've been embraced as an important effort to move mainstream agriculture along the continuum of sustainability."
Wish list: "Our standards are developed by Crop Advisory Committees comprised of Protected Harvest staff, growers, university researchers and experts in soil and water quality, ecology and conservation. Each set of crop-specific standards takes from one to two years to develop. If we had a windfall, we would probably put that money into establishing and staffing more committees."

Provender Alliance
Umpqua, Ore.
Founded: 1977
Executive Director: Susan Schechter
Mission: "A Pacific Northwest regional organization linked by bioregionalism and independent pioneering spirit, the Provender Alliance is dedicated to being an inspirational source of education, information and communication within the natural products community."
Major accomplishment: "Our Annual Educational Conference and the Provender Journal." Natural foods manufacturers, brokers, distributors, consultants and retailers attend the yearly 3-day Northwestern U.S. conference. The bimonthly journal reports industry news and business changes in the Northwest.
Dodged a bullet? "After 28 years in business we have dodged several bullets, but the fact that we are still here and going strong speaks deeply to the needs and the importance of an alliance of the different parts of the natural products community."
Wish list: "Our vision would then include running our own conference center, creating satellite organizations throughout the country and offering workshops throughout the year. There is a tremendous need for ongoing education in the natural products community currently not being met by any other organization or conference."

TransFair USA
Oakland, Calif.
Founded: 1998
President and CEO: Paul Rice
Mission: to build a more equitable and sustainable model of international trade that benefits farmers, consumers, industry and the Earth by certifying and promoting fair trade products.
Major accomplishment: "I'd have to say that being part of a movement that has helped to dramatically grow the sales of fair trade-certified products and provide farming families with millions of dollars in additional income," says TransFair Marketing Director Haven Bourque. "Sales of fair trade-certified products have grown 75 percent since TransFair USA opened its doors five years ago. They grew a remarkable 90 percent last year. That means that the sleeping giant, the American consumer, is awakening. Our farmers have received $37 million in additional revenues as a result of these great sales numbers. For these farmers, that means that they are able to stay on their land, put food on the table and keep kids in school."
Dodged a bullet? "Going mainstream with an organization that has its foundations in a grassroots movement has been a delicate walk-we've worked hard to build a model that works for business, nongovernmental organizations, consumers and farmers alike. But we've weathered the challenge and we're growing faster than ever today. Our clients range from Wild Oats, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts and Procter & Gamble to many small, independent, values-based companies."
Wish list: A campaign to bring mainstream consumer awareness to the fair trade-certified label.

United Plant Savers
East Barre, Vt.
Founded: 1994
Executive Director: Lynda LeMole
Mission: to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come. Major accomplishment: "By publishing our At-Risk and To-Watch lists, we created support—as well as stimulating controversy—from herbalists, environmentalists, manufacturers, retailers and consumers who began to more closely question the sources and sustainability of using certain plants."
Dodged a bullet? "Like many nonprofits in these last economically challenging three years in the United States, we have seen lower levels of charitable giving. to add to the difficulty, we had a fire that burned our office and all records to the ground. Talk about trial by fire. Well, we rose from the ashes, tightened our belts in every way, and created a leaner and more sustainable economic model for our small nonprofit. We Also had to shelve some of our bigger dreams just as we were ready to see them materialize. Our members strongly supported us during this crisis, and we learned how passionate they are about saving plants that are at risk."
Wish list: "Perhaps this sounds ungrateful, but I don't think we need $200 million. One of the lessons we learned during our trial by fire is that a smaller organization with less hierarchy and layers of management suits our mission better, keeps us humble and close to the ground where our members can reach us—'grassroots,' if you will." If UPS had more money, it would expand its At-Risk list and develop a network of botanical sanctuaries around the country where people can live and learn about plants.

Vegetarian Resource Group
Founded: 1982
Executive Director: Debra Wasserman
Mission: to remove the hurdles for meatless diets and make it easier for people to be vegetarian and vegan.
Major accomplishment: "Showing that vegetarian groups could be scientific and influence society in a positive way. We built a reputation so that mainstream organizations and professionals contact us."
Dodged a bullet? "Iraqi War 1 and 2 were/are especially difficult times for groups like ours."
Wish list: "to give an idea of what we are still up against ? McDonald's recently paid one pop star $6 million for an endorsement. We need to balance the influence this kind of money has." That includes supplying information, training and financial support to medical practitioners, professional organizations, schools, food service providers, other businesses, and students doing vegetarian research. Other goals:

  • Replicate everywhere what we have already done successfully
  • Solve the problem of schools receiving inexpensive commodities
  • do Latino outreach
  • Help set up a trade association to promote and serve ethical vegetarian businesses.

Vitamin Angel Alliance
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Founded: 1994
Executive Director: Howard Schiffer
Mission: to provide basic nutrition to people in need. "two years ago, the World Health Organization listed the 10 leading health risk factors causing the majority of deaths in the world. Above AIDS, cancer and heart disease was lack of food. People are literally starving to death. That's how important basic nutrition is."
Major accomplishment: "This year, we launched our 'Vitamin See' campaign. We are reaching 6 million children and lactating moms in India over the next three years to prevent vitamin A-deficiency childhood blindness. Each one of those children is our greatest accomplishment."
Dodged a bullet? "Not important. Our job is just to remember why we're doing this."
Wish list:

  • Wipe out vitamin A-deficiency childhood blindness on the planet by 2020, saving 250,000 children a year from going blind
  • Save the children of Tibet and Mongolia by eliminating severe malnutrition, thereby preventing anemia and rickets
  • Dramatically reduce infant deaths from malnutrition in Honduras and other countries in Central America
  • Launch a major initiative with UNICEF in 14 countries in the Pacific region to stop severe malnutrition among the 35 million children there
  • Dramatically lower morbidity and mortality caused by malnutrition in children all over the world.
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