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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Food Empowerment Project

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animal Services, Animals, Civil Rights, Food, Food Programs

Mission: A vegan food justice nonprofit that promotes veganism, fights for farm workers, works on lack of access to healthy foods in communities of color, and encourages people not to buy chocolate sourced from the worst forms of child labor.

Programs: Access to healthy foods: safeway campaign: our campaign against safeway is intended to reverse the company's outrageous policy of putting restricted deeds on their former properties. The deeds block other grocery stores from opening, which limits access to fresh and healthy foods in communities of color and low-income communities. Our safeway petition has garnered more than 30,000 signatures and t volunteers mobilized protests in los angeles, vallejo, san josé, rohnert park, san francisco, seattle, baltimore, and washington, dc. Vallejo outreach: f. E. P. Recently met with vallejo mayor bob sampayan to discuss how to better provide access to healthy foods in his vibrant and diverse city. To support this effort, we completed six focus groups where we met with local residents, ate delicious vegan food, and talked about their needs for fresh and healthy foods. We are now translating and analyzing the data, which may be used to influence public health policy. Currently, the solano county health department is using our vallejo report on access to healthy foods for their healthy stores for a healthy community initiative. We also coordinated a meeting with two members of the mandela foods cooperative, vallejo's people's garden, our community organizer, and mayor sampayan about bringing worker-owned cooperatives to the community.

veganism: organized outreach in petaluma poultry slaughterhouse to remind people who is being killed behind the walls. Held signs and handed out literature. Vegan mexican food: we updated veganmexicanfood. Com just in time for its 10th birthday and mexican independence day. In addition to boasting more than 30 vegan mexican food recipes, the refreshed site includes information on ethical eating and food colonization and is fully translated into spanish (like our main website). The recipes and educational content provide a wonderful chance to explore and engage with veganism through chicanx and mexican culture. Vallejo healthy food fest: nearly 400 people attended our all-vegan vallejo healthy food fest. The event represented vallejo's rich cultural diversity via food such as vegan "chicken" adobo (a filipino favorite), beans, mexican rice, corn tortillas, and kale and cabbage greens. The times-herald news and benicia herald highlighted the event and vallejo's mayor thanked us with a certificate for our work on improving access to healthy foods in the vallejo community. Coordinates events in the local community to focus on animals who are raised and killed for food. Speaking about veganism: we connected with supporters coast to coast, tabling at the sonoma county vegfest and speaking at the san francisco vegfest, the portland vegfest, the animal law conference in portland, the farm sanctuary hoe down in new york, and the refuge conference at wesleyan university in connecticut. Lauren even traveled to melbourne, australia, to speak on f. E. P. 's holistic approach to food justice at the edgar's mission farm sanctuary evening of kindness.

farm workers advocacy: 50-mile rule campaign: f. E. P. Has been working to change california's unfair 50-mile regulation requiring farm workers and their families to move at least 50 miles away from migrant camps at the end of each growing season. This regulation repeatedly uproots farm worker children and denies their right to an education. F. E. P. Founder lauren ornelas spoke on a panel of experts regarding the 50-mile regulation and delivered a legal petition to the california department of housing and community development. Our efforts have received attention in the los angeles times, santa cruz sentinel, and california health report. School supply drive: thanks to many generous donations (including from a local assemblymember), we were able to stuff 461 backpacks full of school supplies in 2017. We then distributed those backpacks to the children of more than 300 farm workers, who were wrapped around the block ready to receive these important educational tools. We hold the annual school supply drive to show farm workers we are grateful for the work they do. This isn't charity; it's giving something back to the people who make it possible for us to put food on our tables. Wildfire relief fundraiser: after fires devastated the region, f. E. P. Organized a fundraiser for impacted farm workers in sonoma county. The farm workers, many of whom still speak their indigenous language that is not spanish (and as a result don't always get the help they need), were given supplies to get started again after they lost their homes and belongings.

additional program service accomplishments include: chocolate app: more than 10,000 people have downloaded our chocolate app in an effort to avoid purchases that contribute to the worst forms of child labor, including slavery. We also updated our coffee and wine lists to showcase companies that prioritize the ethical treatment of both animals and workers. Speaking engagements: we connected with supporters coast-to-coast, tabing at the sonoma county vegfest and speaking at the san francisco vegfest, the portland vegfest, the animal law conference in portland, the farm sanctuary hoe down in new york, and the refuge conference at wesleyan university in connecticut. Lauren even traveled to melbourne, australia, to speak on f. E. P. 's holistic approach to food justice at edgar's mission farm sanctuary's evening of kindness. Chapter efforts: our all-volunteer washington chapter organized an amazing summertime yard sale with the proceeds going to f. E. P. And to vine sanctuary in vermont. The volunteers also served vegan hot dogs and sweets to introduce non-vegans to delicious vegan foods. In addition, the chapter hosted the appetite for justice benefit dinner for f. E. P. At the northwest african american museum in seattle, wa. Recognition: f. E. P. Was nominated for favorite app (for the chocolate list) and favorite nonprofit in this year's vegnews veggie awards. In addition, the city of san josé, california's third largest city and the location of f. E. P. 's founding, awarded f. E. P. With a prestigious proclamation during a city council meeting. The proclamation recognized our efforts to promote "a more sustainable world by educating the community on issues, such as access to healthy foods for low-income families, working conditions for farm workers, and depletion of natural resources.

Community Stories

55 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Board Member

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project motivates and empowers me to make just food decisions. As a Board Member, I am honored to be able to work and support such a multifaceted and holistic organization.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project really is one-of-a-kind! No one else connects the dots the way F.E.P. does. Finally, there's a group for those of us who care about everyone impacted by the food system - animals, produce workers, children forced into slavery in the chocolate industry, and low-income communities of color who cannot access healthy foods. I feel so good about donating to F.E.P.!

Board Member

Rating: 5

Great one-of-a-kind organization! No one else is doing the extremely important work that F.E.P. is tackling.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first came across the Food Empowerment Project when I was researching on ethical chocolate. I immediately fell in love with the organization and it's mission. Finally an organization that recognizes how entangled food, health, the animals, the environment, and the workers are. We cannot fix our broken food system by tackling single issues and the Food Empowerment Project understands this.

I appreciate how much impact the Food Empowerment Project has made as a volunteer organization. Without hesitation I decided that I needed to help out where I could. This started with donating to the organization and now volunteering with them. Lauren, the founder, is incredibly intelligent as well as kind and compassionate. I continually learn from her and enjoy volunteering with the Food Empowerment Project.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

it just call me the attention this program and I need to do a presentation for my school and I was wondering if you jave this program in the PA area?

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love being a part of the Food Empowerment Project volunteer family! F.E.P. makes the critical connections between ethical and compassionate choices that transcend all species. The sooner our greater community understands the intersections between our daily decisions and the impact on tomorrow's outlook the better. Their mission resonates with me entirely; allowing me to continue learning and sharing information about worker's rights, food source implications, and improving access to healthy foods for all communities.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

When I came across Food Empowerment Project through tabling next to them at the Animal Rights Conference it was the first time I had been actually excited about a non-profit organization in many years. Finally a group that truly gets it. Not only are they dedicated to promoting the vegan message but they do not ignore so many of the other important issues that intersect when one is dealing with food politics. To have a truly effective anti-oppression movement we must do our best to address all issues of oppression, not casting aside those that don't strictly fit in with our chosen issue. FEP does this beautifully, tying together the intersectionality of oppression in a way that is easy to understand and much more accessible to a greater portion of the population than most other organizations.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment Project taught me about the injustice that is going on not only in other countries but right in front of our door steps every single day. I was shocked when I first found out about this and I'm very grateful to have found this fantastic organization of dedicated people who work very hard to spread the word! I learned so much while volunteering for this organization, for example how your food choices affect others and the environment one meal at a time. I'm so happy for being a part of this amazing team!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a former board member of Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.), I can honestly say that this all-volunteer, vegan organization is making connections and doing work that is more than commendable. From bringing awareness to the public about the plight of today's farm workers to the lack of access to healthy food in "food deserts," F.E.P. continues to educate others about the importance of their food choices, including the ease of reducing the suffering of animals raised for food. F.E.P. truly empowers people to do the most good and the least harm, which is something I continue to aspire to do and why I happily support them.

Sarah130

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I absolutely am grateful to and fully support Food Empowerment Project. FEP has helped show thousands upon thousands about how food choices affect diverse populations and the environment. They promote access to healthy foods, support company transparency, and have effected serious change in the marketplace through consumer advocacy and other tools. I am so proud to support them and am glad their work will continue to impact our world for the better.

Donor

Rating: 5

I love the Food Empowerment Project because it calls attention to all the issues involved with food justice. They care about the people who grow our food, the animals whose lives are taken for our food; the environment that suffers for our food production. And even better, they share with the public practical ways to ensure that children, adults, animals and the earth are not exploited for our food. What a win/win solution to a complex set of challenges. This is the only group I know of that connects the dots to see and find solutions for the big picture in ethical food choices.

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Donor

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment project connects the dots and shows the relationships between and among humans, animals, and the earth. They show that our behaviors toward any of these affects each of the others. They call on businesses and individuals to do right by their employees, their communities, their planet. FEP holds citizens of the earth accountable for the damage we do to one another and to our planet. The encourage respect and dignity and kindness in everything we do. I do not know of any other group that sees the whole picture this clearly and does such good work across the board on behalf of people, animals or our dear home planet.

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am impressed with FEP. This organization succeeds at empowering people to bring about positive change on all of the following issues: human slavery, animal suffering, climate change and other forms of environmental damage, public health, and worker rights. It's a breathtaking range of issues, but the connections are there, and FEP brings those connections to light.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A hard-working and visionary group. They strive to cover as many related and interconnected issues as they can relating to food. They care about both the human side and animal side, making them quite a unique group.

Advisor

Rating: 5

The work that the Food Empowerment Project does is amazing. Focused on food justice issues, they provide invaluable resources and are an amazing voice on a number of issues such as animals used in the food industry, the treatment of agricultural workers, human slavery and the environment. This is a visionary organization and I'm not aware of any other organization who takes a comprehensive view of the myriad issues surrounding food.

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Advisor

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment Project is an incredible organization led by an incredible woman, lauren Ornelas. The organization focuses on linking all of the issues around food, including animals, the environment, farm workers, health and more. This is the only organization I know that takes a holistic view of the impact of our food choices.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment Project is a fantastic organization that tackles all the injustices surrounding our food choices. As a vegan organization there is the much needed focus on animals but there is also equal concern for issues such as human slavery, environmental exploitation, the plight of farm workers, food security, environmental racism, and food deserts. FEP recognizes that these issues do not exist in a vacuum; instead, they are part of the same cycle of oppression and we need to be concerned about them all if we care about creating a more just world.
Consistent with their holistic approach to food justice, FEP is working to help new vegans stay on track by advocating going vegan for a variety of ethical reasons in their Food Chain newsletters. Instead of promoting an only-for-the-animals approach, Food Chain covers the environmental, social justice, and health reasons for going and staying vegan. This no-stone-left-unturned approach is not only more inclusive but also leaves fewer opportunities for people to make excuses or claim they don't care.
I am extremely proud to be part of the Food Empowerment Project. Volunteering for them has raised my awareness not only of how much injustice is out there but also of how far reaching an impact our food choices have on the world. It truly is empowering!

Donor

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project is without question, an all-around ethical organization and the ONLY group I know of that links together and addresses human, animal and environmental concerns. As a result, it's impact is far more outreaching; from child slavery and the rights of farm workers, to human health and the horrors of factory farming, they truly leave no stone unturned.

Advisor

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment Project is dedicated to social justice on multiple fronts, even when that is challenging (and challenged). Effective work for environmental issues, animal concerns, food justice, or human justice issues requires understanding the connections among all four. The Food Empowerment Project sheds the light and heat needed to illuminate and fuel powerful food justice work. Highly recommended!

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Advisor

Rating: 5

FEP empowers people to make a difference on issues that matter: human slavery, environmental degradation, animal suffering, climate change, worker rights, and public health, to name a few. They provide participants experiences of local changes having global impact, and that's transforming. By uncovering hidden connections among many justice issues, they boldly go where many nonprofits fear to tread. Their work is both straightforward and nuanced. And they do all of this with minimal overhead, a highly committed staff of great integrity, and expertise from years of experience in field.

Carol54

Donor

Rating: 5

My son Chris is a volunteer, and I feel very moved by his work to bring healthy food to those in need.

Chris V.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love this group because it combines human and animal rights under the greater category of justice. I did not feel satisfied with activist groups who thought one was important and the other not important. The Food Empowerment Project allows me to advocate for people, animals, and the environment, and show how all 3 are related to each other. When I found out about F.E.P. I was excited to have a group represent most of my activist views, without looking down on other causes. When I volunteer for other groups there are always some who are saying they already know about that issue or were not interested. With F.E.P. I have yet to meet someone who was not interested to learn about one or more or the issues we work on. It really makes me feel great to help empower people to make the world a better place through their purchases and other of our campaigns.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I believe that the work that Food Empowerment Project is doing is vital to understanding and connecting social justice struggles. I have already learned so much by reading their literature and seeing lauren from FEP speak a few times. Our choices affect produce workers, child slavery in west africa, and animals all over the planet. Food Empowerment project has a lot of work a head of them and they can use all the help they can get!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I helped FEP conduct focus groups among Spanish-speaking men and women in the San Jose area. In addition to the important work that FEP is conducting, the volunteers showed amazing organization skills in conducting the focus groups. They made the participants feel welcome, appreciated and empowered.

Board Member

Rating: 5

FEP goes above and beyond in their efforts to tie together various social justice movements, including human, non-human, and environmental justice in their work. I'm very honored to be on the advisory board and to get to play some small part in the amazing work that they do.

Ryan

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The main reason I choose to work with Food Empowerment Project is because of the direct impact their work has on people in my county. Rather than suggesting solutions to the injustices they experience, Food Empowerment Project works hand in hand with members of my community to identify thoughtful solutions to the struggles they endure. In my view, this is how truly effective, long lasting change occurs. FEP pursues the root of the problem with a tenacity I haven't seen in any other group, for-profit and non-profit alike. It starts with the unparalleled passion of the founder and grows with every single dedicated volunteer. FEP fills a critical niche in the social justice movement and demonstrates an uncompromising commitment to meaningful change. I feel privileged to work with such amazing people.

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment Project is a truly unique organization that focuses on interrelated social justice issues that have historically been addressed individually. In my experience with FEP, people seem to connect very quickly with the issues and especially the approach. Most people want to be part of the solution and FEP inspires and empowers people to speak up, get involved and make meaningful changes in their lifestyle. FEP is all about education and action. They continue to demonstrate that they have the initiative to take on serious issues and the follow-through to drive change.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been analyzing FEP for my dissertation work, which focuses on critical food geographies and pro-vegan organizations. FEP is a superb example of solidarity, collaboration, and compassion. Food Empowerment Project’s goals are ‘race-conscious’, ‘class-conscious’, non-human animal compassionate, and green. FEP reveals how USA product marketing tends to conceal the social, economic, and geopolitical relations that undergird even food commodities. For example, they are working hard to expose which chocolate companies are sourcing from countries that use child slavery in the cocoa plantation. FEP fights to create a food commodity chain without (1) perpetuating racism, sexism, or poverty and (2) abusing and exploiting animals or the environment’s resources. FEP represents a vegan space that seeks solidarity with all oppressed and exploited beings and resources. FEP’s political and economic activism for exploited Latin-American laborers who harvest produce for vegans under cruel conditions. This challenges the assumption, promoted by PETA Cruelty Free Vegan Shopping Guide, that produce is vegan, therefore is ‘cruelty-free’. I have learned through FEP that ethical consumption amongst the USA status quo, obscure how race and ongoing legacies of colonialism have greatly affected the landscape of food production and who has access to purchase foods that have been labeled as "ethical," "moral," or "vegan." I also learned through FEP that organic produce, a tenet of ethical consumption philosophy, is not necessarily ethical when it comes to its reliance on the exploited Latin-American laborers. These laborers are collectively paid wages so low in the USA, they cannot even afford to buy the very organic "ethical" foods they harvest and process for ethical consumption movement dominated by socio-economically privileged American consumers . As a pro-vegan scholar and activist, FEP has also taught me that individual consumption of vegan commodities is simply not enough to create an ethical and just food system, healthy planet, or ‘cruelty-free’ commodity chain. Instead, FEP seeks to understand the limits of vegan ethics if it is within the confines of neoliberal capitalist global economy.

VeganCookieMonster

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with the Food Empowerment Project for about 2 years. I am one of their researchers. I volunteer with F.E.P. because the work that they are doing is critical. Their goal is to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one's food choices. They work hard to educate the public about making informed choices to prevent injustices against animals, people and the environment. With many groups, you see a focus on only of those issues, but F.E.P. draws them together to show how people's choices affect animals, people AND the environment. It's all connected. It is an honor and a privilege to support F.E.P.'s work and the difference they are making in the world.

Dylan P.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment Project is at the front lines of the intersectional social justice movement which is grounded in animal liberation. Typically thought of in isolation, the FEP highlights the ways in which animal use intersects with food justice, food apartheid, food deserts, migrant worker exploitation, environmental racism and more. This work is coalition work that strengthens all of these movements, provides space for collaboration, and moves understandings beyond human dominance.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is a unique and vital organization.

It’s rare enough to find advocates for non-human animals who care about workers; it’s even more rare to find worker advocates who pay any attention at all to animal issues.

And it’s more or less unheard of for such activists to take a worlds-system view of environmental toxins, industrial production, the larger food system and what it means for social justice efforts in our communities.

In the market glut of nonprofits vying for dwindling funding, that’s a bit of a tall order. Yet F.E.P. does all of that and more, with little more than a dedicated volunteer staff and a mission that our “food choices really can change the world.”

By positioning its advocacy at the intersections of struggles, F.E.P. challenges us. In accessible language and total honesty, it asks, “What do worker’s rights and animal rights have to say to each other? What about local food justice and global food sovereignty? What does your store sell? Why? What does it mean for cocoa to be ‘ethically-sourced?’ What about the farmworkers who harvest your dinner?”

F.E.P. relentlessly forces these issues, to its great credit. There is literally no else doing it, certainly not with a vegan focus and not with an intentional attempt to make it accessible to a wider popular community.

They are utterly essential to ongoing efforts for social change. Give them all your money.

Donor

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project is the most effective organization that addresses the impact of our food system on people, animals and the environment.

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Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project is an amazing organization. Their work is so crucial for our age because they question some of the most entrenched beliefs, but manage to do so in a way that is respectful and helps people to change. Not only are they an extremely effective organization, but they manage to pull off an amazing amount of work with very little funding. Hoping they come upon a great windfall soon.

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Paris H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have never known a group like this. I see them as huge advocates for all beings in our community, both human and animal. Their work ethic is impeccable and I have learned from them to be much more affective in my own campaigns. Such a simple yet profound concept...that our food choices make tremendous changes in so many areas of our communties.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

There are a lot of remarkable nonprofits out there. Some help animals (even those raised for food). Some work on issues affecting humans, such as health, workers' rights, or slavery. Still others work to improve the environment. Food Empowerment Project is the only organization I know of that works on all these issues. That this work is done as an all-volunteer nonprofit is simply astounding. I am privileged to help them in any way I can.

Christopher G.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project does what few NGOs can seem to manage: Stay committed to specific, attainable goals, grounded in a larger coherent framework, while maintaining a laser-like focus on deliverable results. The fact that FEP does this while staying lean, efficient, and flexible is a testament to its leadership.

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Board Member

Rating: 5

The Food Empowerment Project is the only food justice organization that sees the connectivity of all issues as they relate to social justice and where our food comes from. With a focus on research, advocacy, and grassroots activism this organization stands alone in their commitment to making our plant safe for all species and for all time.

vbelt

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a board member who is very involved with Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.), I can honestly say how thankful I am to be a part of this nonprofit organization that makes the connections between social justice food issues involving humans, animals and the environment while including such important and timely issues such as the lack of access to healthy food in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. As an all-volunteer organization I am often amazed at how much gets done, but I cannot say I'm surprised since the passion and willingness to make a difference in our world resonates deeply within this organization, and I am more than happy to be a part of that.

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Board Member

Rating: 5

As someone who was new to social justice issues, I was intrigued and impressed when I heard about the idea to form a nonprofit that would focus on the interconnections of a variety of social justice issues that involved food. I remember saying that if Food Empowerment Project became a reality, I would definitely like to be a part of it. I began as a volunteer, then an Advisory Board Member, and am now a Board Member who does volunteer work on a daily basis. I can honestly say that the work I do is not only worthwhile, but has changed my life for the better. I have learned so much about the needs of families who do not have access to healthy foods, about the injustices farm workers must endure while picking the fruits and vegetables that end up on our tables, about the child and slave labor that abounds in the chocolate industry in Africa, and about the plight of the billions of farmed animals killed daily for "meat," along with so much more. I have truly learned about how the power of food can change the world.

Katherine C.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project is such an effective food justice organization because it focuses on the interconnected issues of human rights, animal rights, and environmental justice. When I have tabeled for F.E.P as a volunteer, I will undoubtedly speak with: a social justice advocate who didn't realize the suffering caused by factory farming for both workers and farmed animals -- or an animal rights activist who, after hearing Founder lauren Ornelas' talk, is informed & empowered to purchase foods that are not only free of animal suffering, but free of human slavery (example: http://www.foodispower.org/slavery_chocolate.htm). F.E.P not only raises awareness, they provide simple tools to take action and make a difference (http://www.foodispower.org/takeaction.htm). F.E.P. unites all behind a common cause of seeking a more just and sustainable world.

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

Led by founder lauren Ornelas, the Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one's food choices. F.E.P. encourages healthy food choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, and the unavailability of healthy foods in low-income areas. lauren Ornelas speaks with passion and solid facts to enlighten others of the consequences of their food choices, and what they can do to make the world and better place for people and animals.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I've have been on the Food Empowerment Project's mail list, email list and Facebook page for the past year. I have seen the work they do...educating people on healthy food choices which also has a positive effect on the environment and the needless suffering of animals. The FEP has also been involved in fighting for farmworkers' rights, which has become such a desperate situation for those who work so hard and under such extreme conditions to put food on our table. FEP also started a campaign with Change.org to end child slavery within a well-known company which has opened my eyes to the entire world wide epidemic. Lauren Ornelas is a committed and compassionate leader for this non-profit and I plan on volunteering for their cause in the future.

Donor

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project is a group that I continue to support because I think their work is hooked into the future, doing their best to educate and help people and animals. Hopefully more people will make the connections that they are teaching.

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General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Food Empowerment Project is connecting the dots between the rights of humans and animals, and that's something kind of rare right now, but I think completely necessary to take humanity to the next level.

They do so much important research and education that not a lot of groups are doing right now, and I think they are leaders in this way.