The T.O.F.U. Grant: Round Six

lauren Ornelas from Food Empowerment Project

lauren Ornelas during her TEDx Talk in San Francisco

As always, upon the release of the latest issue, my thoughts soon turned to deciding on the recipient of the T.O.F.U. grant. With past winners having done such great things, the choice always seems to get a little more interesting each time.

I say “interesting” because as the days go by, I continue to hear about new organizations and people deserving of recognition and support, which means that making the choice, although it may be slightly difficult, also helps me to realize that so much is happening around us and it’s being driven by passionate people.

In many cases, it’s this passion that keeps things going since many of these organizations and people are running on either shoestring budgets or nothing at all. Given the financial constraints of T.O.F.U., I can understand this dilemma all too well. In fact, if it wasn’t for my advertisers who continue to support the magazine each issue, I wouldn’t be able to even offer the grant since it comes from half of the money I make through ads. For the most part, the other half goes to pay my Creative Director, and then I cover my expenses and pay myself with whatever people decide to pay for the issue through the online store.

One might think that this slight diversion into T.O.F.U.’s finances is a little off-topic, but given the work of the sixth grant recipient, I think providing transparency for where your money goes with each issue is more than appropriate.

The Roots

Founded in 2006 by lauren Ornelas, Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is a vegan food justice organization that seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. However, they’re not just your average “go vegan” pamphleteers. For years now, they’ve been pushing companies and people to consider more than just the animals when it comes to being cruelty-free, and their efforts are seeing results.

One of the biggest projects they’ve gained notice for is their chocolate list, and if you don’t already know about it, I recommend you check it out now. For years, F.E.P. has been working hard to disclose the source of chocolate for a number of companies that claim the “cruelty-free” label, and they’ve also been involved in educating consumers on just what else to look for beyond the ingredients.

By spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, the unavailability of healthy foods in communities of color and low-income areas, and the importance of not purchasing chocolate that comes from the worst forms of child labor, F.E.P. works to empower people and show the importance of making informed decisions.

Direct results of F.E.P.'s school supply drive

Positive results from the school supply drive in 2013

The Many Branches

Along with the success of their chocolate list, F.E.P. works on a number of projects with different specific goals. From surveys and focus groups with community members to determine food access, to school supply drives for the children of farm workers, F.E.P. understands that these issues are multi-faceted and require involvement on many levels.

Although I had some understanding of F.E.P.’s work previously thanks to such people as Dr. Amie Breeze Harper (a past T.O.F.U. grant recipient herself), it wasn’t until I attended a number of talks with its founder, lauren Ornelas, at the Resistance Ecology Conference in Portland, Oregon that I realized just how much they did.

F.E.P. in Action

F.E.P. volunteers, Mark Hawthorne and Sarah Rice, at a monthly chicken slaughterhouse protest

Even more important is the fact that they undertake all of these projects as an all volunteer non-profit organization. Needless to say, as I listened to lauren highlight the importance of our food choices, as well as the need to understand and think critically of those choices beyond simply whether or not they contain animal products, I knew that I needed to support F.E.P. as much as I could.

So, choosing them as the recipient of the sixth T.O.F.U. grant seemed like a great first step. Hopefully, thanks to this brief introduction, you feel the same way.

For more information on Food Empowerment Project, and how you can help, you can find them here:

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