Food Companies Using Their Farming Connections To Tackle Big Problems

Nestle and coffee company Kenco are taking small steps that have the potential to grow.

Lost amid a good deal of the talk about the wave of unaccompanied immigrant children who have crossed the southern border into the US are the children themselves and the circumstances that drove them to take a lonely, frightening and perilous journey on their own.

Coffee company Kenco is using some of its marketing effort to talk about its work in Honduras to counter the deadly gang culture that has overtaken San Pedro Sula and other areas around that country. They’ve created the clip above to talk up the program, “Coffee vs Gangs,” that will teach 20 Honduran children how to be coffee farmers. And they will publish regular updates to let people know about the progress the selected kids are making.

The program is part of the “Coffee Made Happy” initiative that Kenco’s parent company Mondelez embarked upon in 2011. The program is a $200 million investment in sustainability programs through 2020. Fairfood International reported on the program, stating, “We at Fairfood are cautiously optimistic, and are hopeful that the company will increase its transparency with this initiative. To help them and remind them of their commitment, we will continue our proactive dialogue with Mondelez as they work toward the realization of the initiative’s goals.”

Of course, this is just a small dent in a huge problem. Tens of thousands have traveled to the US seeking to escape to a better life. The problems in Central America that drove people out in the first place have yet to be solved. And though the number of people detained coming over the border this past month is much lower than the previous two (CBS News credits the heat and a messaging campaign that spread the word that children won’t be allowed to stay in the US even if they make it), it’s still much higher than the year before.

However, there’s enough buzz around this effort to perhaps see it grow in the future. It could be the germ of an idea that only gets bigger.

Just today we also received a press release about a partnership between international NGO Mercy For Animals and global food company Nestle. Together, they’re going to address the issues of animal welfare in farming by way of the supply chain.

“Citing the need for continuous improvement in animal welfare, Nestlé has announced it will eliminate many of the cruelest forms of institutionalized animal abuse from its supply chain, including an end to the practices of tail docking and dehorning of dairy cattle, an end to the castration of piglets without painkillers, and the phaseout of growth promoters for poultry. The mega company has also committed to ending the intensive confinement of baby calves in veal crates, pregnant pigs in gestation crates, and egg-laying hens in battery cages,” writes Mercy for Animals. Separately, the fact that some of these conditions were ever deemed OK is appalling.

Mercy for Animals president Nathan Runkle said in a statement, “While there is still work to be done, Nestlé’s new policy represents the most sweeping animal welfare policy ever adopted by a major food distributor.” Nestle says it purchases goods from 7,300 suppliers and is now bringing on an independent auditor, SGS, to maintain standards and make improvements where necessary.

These baby steps, we hope, will lead to something bigger and better. The key will be a commitment to both the causes they address and the growth of these programs.

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