Category : Women

Unveiling Our Carlos Cortes Scholarship Recipient’s Inspiring Journey

Carmen at the lab, doing what she loves most.

The Scholarship Program

At Organics Unlimited, we are dedicated to not only delivering the finest bananas but also fostering a community committed to social responsibility, fair trade, and sustainability. The Carlos Cortes Scholarship honors the work and memory of Organic Banana Pioneer, Carlos Cortes Sr, and is awarded to an individual whose journey embodies the values of commitment to social responsibility, fair trade, and sustainability while pursuing higher education in the food sector. Today, we are thrilled to introduce you to Carmen Leticia Hidalgo Mujica, the first Carlos Cortes Scholarship Recipient, an exceptional individual whose journey embodies these values while championing innovation in the food industry.

A Journey Rooted in Science and Sustainability

From her early fascination with science to becoming a patent-holder and groundbreaking food industry innovator, Carmen’s journey is a testament to the power of passion, education, and transformative ideas. Her career is anchored in sustainability and driven by her curiosity to make a positive impact.

Pioneering in Food Chemistry and Quality with Fair Trade Ingredients

With a deep-seated passion for science, she embarked on the path of becoming a chemical laboratory technician during her high school years. Her journey into food science was a natural evolution, aligning her scientific curiosity with her commitment to fair trade and sustainability.
“Though I studied a diverse array of subjects while pursing my degree, Food Quality Assurance, Food Product Innovation, and Nutrition were the subjects that most caught my attention because I came to believe that they constitute the central axis of the food industry.”

Transforming Ideas into Sustainable Solutions

Her commitment to sustainability and fair trade flourished during her undergraduate years when she developed an edible coating derived from shrimp processing waste to extend the shelf-life of fresh fruit products. This innovation not only showcased Carmen’s scientific prowess but also demonstrated her dedication to minimizing waste and optimizing resources in the food industry. Her achievement culminated in a patent registered in Mexico, a testament to her ability to turn groundbreaking ideas into sustainable solutions.

Carmen relaxing by the lake.

Pursuing Excellence: A Postgraduate Journey in Sustainability

Carmen’s journey now leads her to the postgraduate program in Food Quality and Innovation at the University of Leeds. With courses focused on Food Product Development and Nutrient & Food Biochemical Structure and Function, she is poised to refine her expertise in sustainable practices further. The university’s commitment to sustainability aligns seamlessly with her values, ensuring that her education goes beyond theory, manifesting as impactful, eco-conscious actions.

Championing Positive Change for Sustainable Practices

What sets Carmen apart is her unwavering commitment to societal well-being and sustainable practices. Her vision extends beyond innovative products to addressing pressing public health issues and promoting sustainable consumption. She notes the juxtaposition of a country plagued by food related health problems while having a wealth of endemic superfoods hidden in plain sight.

“In 2019, Unilever published a list of the ‘Future 50 Foods’ chosen for their high nutritional value, relative environmental impact, and flavour among other factors. I was astonished to see many staples of Mexican cuisine on the list which were largely missing their great potential. I would like to focus my attention on the problem of obesity by providing healthier food options.”

Her mission to combat obesity and elevate Mexican superfoods aligns harmoniously with our ethos of fostering sustainable, fair trade practices that benefit both consumers and communities.

A Revolution for a Greener Tomorrow

Through her scientific acumen, industry experience, and academic pursuits, Carmen aspires to revolutionize the food industry’s sustainable landscape.

“The synergy between my previous professional experience and the knowledge acquired during this prestigious postgraduate program will provide me with everything I need to create nutritious products using Mexican superfood ingredients to combat a range of public health problems while introducing new and exciting consumer experiences to revolutionize the food industry for a new generation.”

A Promise for Sustainable Transformation

At Organics Unlimited, we take immense pride in supporting and celebrating the journey of this visionary individual. Her story is a testament to the transformative power of education, innovation, and sustainable practices. As she embarks on this new chapter at the University of Leeds, we eagerly anticipate the far-reaching impact of her efforts and her steadfast dedication to a greener, more sustainable world.

Together, we forge a path toward a future where innovation, education, sustainability, and social responsibility coalesce to shape a more sustainable and equitable world through the realm of food.

Woman Led: Fighting for Environmental Justice

GROW Program and Our Border Community

An important pillar of our business model is to give back to the communities we impact. We are headquartered in San Diego and form part of the bustling bi-national community on the Mexican border. To that end, it is important that we are helping shape the communities we touch in a positive manner.

Moms vs. Maquiladoras

Tijuana, one of the busiest land border crossings in the world, is also home to over 300 maquiladoras, or assembly plants. While this provides a lot of jobs, it often results in the unregulated pollution of waterways and local communities.

In the 1980s and 90s, a fierce group of stay-at-home mothers decided to fight against the contamination that was affecting their children and community in Tijuana. They banded together as Colectivo Chilpancingo, and after a decade of work, they successfully lobbied the government in closing a battery recycling plant and secured a commitment from the government to safely dispose of the over 45,000 tons of waste that the plant left behind.

Protecting Our Communities

Today, Colectivo Chilpancingo, in partnership with the Environmental Health Coalition and the GROW program, continues the fight for environmental justice, defending the right to live in healthy and sustainable communities. In 2011, the Alamar River began to be channelized, depleting the area of its natural ecosystem, an area of natural recreation, and displacing part of the community. 

The unchannelized portion is one of the few lush, nature-rich areas left in Tijuana while the channelized portion has divided the Chilpancingo community. Trash and pollution now plague the once nature-rich neighborhood. The displaced families are now compelled to take up shelter in shanty towns across the channel, and women and children are forced to cross a freeway and haphazardly constructed paths to make their way across the polluted channel and into their town to work or attend school.

Through the work being done by the Environmental Health Coalition and the GROW program, we support these communities along our border in their struggle for environmental justice, improving air pollution and preserving the river.

To learn more about the work they continue to do in conjunction with the Environmental Health Coalition, you can visit their site or follow them on Instagram.

Woman Led: Meet Daniella, our General Manager

Women Making a Difference

Organics Unlimited is a proudly woman-owned and woman-led company. We believe that through diversity and inclusion in the workplace we can foster creative collaboration and empowerment that strengthens our communities and economies. To celebrate this year’s Women’s History Month we’re highlighting the women leaders that make us who we are.

Third Generation Banana Wholesaler

Daniella is the newest generation of this family business: fourth generation of organic growers in her family and the third generation of organic banana wholesalers.

A San Diego local, she started her career in advertising and dedicated seven years to developing digital marketing solutions when Facebook, Pinterest, and Snapchat’s API platforms were in their nascent stages.

In her free time, she would help out with the family business and join Mayra at industry trade shows. It was at one of these event where, upon seeing how passionate industry members were about impacting social change, that she made the leap to dedicate herself full-time to the family business. She worked her way through the different departments, learning to drive a forklift to load bananas (admittedly not her forte), coordinated warehouse operations and logistics with the farms, and contributed to marketing efforts.

What drives her is her mission to positively impact our food system. She is a firm advocate for fair pricing for growers and a decentralized food system that prioritizes local, independent farmers.

Q & A with Daniella

Why are you passionate about what you do?

Daniella: I’m passionate about contributing to a resilient, sustainable food system. At Organics Unlimited we do that by supporting a decentralized food system that supports families, small growers, and independent retailers: the heart of our communities.

Who has inspired you?

Daniella: I’m inspired by the pioneers of the Organic Movement. Folks like the Lively brothers, David Weinstein, and my own grandfather. As organic has gone “mainstream,” consolidated and absorbed by Big Ag, my intention is to continue to live by the values that drove the original movement. I do this for our communities, for our environment, and our future.

What are your hobbies? Reading and drawing! I love a good novel and on weekends you can find me at a local coffee shop drawing for hours.

What piece of advice would you give a woman who’s just started her career?

Daniella: Nobody knows what they’re doing 100% of the time, confidence matters. You don’t need to know everything to take the next step. Yes, it will feel uncomfortable but discomfort is necessary to grow, learn, and evolve in your career (and it feels SO good when you master it).

What values are most important in a leader?

Daniella: You need to be passionate and believe in what you do because that is transmitted to your team. It’s important to lead by example and walk the talk; a leader doesn’t sit back and tell people what to do, she is down in the trenches working alongside her team.