Behind the Bananas: Growing Communities with Organics Unlimited
With GROW Month starting on September 1st, we partnered with The Produce Moms. Read below to see what they said and to join in on our new BinGROW game!
What’s one fruit you always keep stocked in your kitchen? For us, it’s the banana! Nature’s grab-and-go snack is perfect for busy breakfasts or packed lunches, and it’s just as good for cooking into sweet and tasty recipes. We always keep a bunch hanging on our fruit basket!
It takes a lot of hardworking growers to bring this sweet and versatile fruit to your kitchen counter – but not all bananas are grown equally. That’s why we’re bananas about Organics Unlimited, who are dedicated to social responsibility and premium fruit. Let’s play some BinGROW and unpeel the story behind the bananas!
Who’s Behind Organics Unlimited?
We can only enjoy tasty bananas because of the people who grow them – and Organics Unlimited knows it! Since its founding in 2000, Organics Unlimited has made the wellbeing of its growers a priority. Founders Mayra and Manuel Velazquez de Leon know that their workers are the key to growing their great bananas, plantains, and coconuts, so they make sure that they have everything they need to grow too.
Organics Unlimited bananas hail from agricultural communities in Mexico and Ecuador, in which many families live in poverty. Many of them lack access to education, health services, and sometimes even basic necessities like clean drinking water. Organics Unlimited believes that uplifting the communities where their growers live improves the quality of the produce they grow, but for them it’s not all about the bananas: the Velazquez de Leon family has roots here too!
A GROWing Social Responsibility
That’s why Organics Unlimited founded the GROW social responsibility program in 2005. GROW is all about Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers and does just that by providing dental and vision care, a milk program, clean drinking water, and community support.
They’re breaking the cycle of poverty with childhood education, higher education, and tutoring, as well as educational necessities like computers, internet access, and student housing. Microbusiness opportunities allow members of the community to become entrepreneurs, make a living, and bring new services to remote regions.
Through GROW, Organics Unlimited partners with organizations like Project Amigo in Mexico and Children International in Ecuador to ensure communities get these necessities. These resources aren’t just for the workers themselves, though, or even just their families. They’re available to the growing community as a whole! Through GROW, Organics Unlimited is working to lift up disadvantaged communities and improve the lives of the people who live there. It’s their way of giving back to the people who make such tasty bananas possible.
A Commitment to Sustainability
Organics Unlimited was growing organic fruit before organic food was cool. Mayra’s father, Carlos Cortes, was the first to bring commercially grown organic bananas to the United States in 1972. His delicious fruit was grown using natural methods he learned from his father. And one of the key ingredients in this natural banana growing process is a healthy environment.
Today’s Organics Unlimited bananas are some of the best and most sustainable around thanks to growing methods inspired by the wild. These farming practices enable Organics Unlimited to grow tasty, nutritious bananas without the use of chemicals, which could potentially be harmful to consumers. Through organic farming and careful stewardship, these growers sustain healthy farmland without disrupting nature’s balance.
A Fairly Traded Alternative
When you pick up a ripe bunch of these bananas in your local grocery store, you can be confident that they’re traded fairly and that no one in the supply chain is left out. GROW is the Organics Unlimited answer to other more commonly known fair trade programs. But unlike those, GROW doesn’t charge admin fees or set minimum prices. This empowers growers and helps them keep their bargaining power in an industry that’s often looking out for the lowest cost.
Buying Organics Unlimited bananas contributes directly to the people who grow them. For each case of Organics Unlimited bananas, customers pay approximately $.60 extra. This money is put back into the growing communities: most of it goes into community initiatives like education or healthcare, while 10 percent is saved in an emergency disaster relief fund to ensure that no one is left behind when the unexpected happens. You might think that 60 cents doesn’t sound like much for so many bananas, but to date customers have raised over $2.7 million through GROW!
Let’s Play B-I-N-GROW!
Put what you’ve learned about Organics Unlimited to use in this fun game of Bingo! This game is perfect for classrooms or groups of homeschoolers. We’ve given you all the resources you need to play below – just click the image! All you need to do is cut up a copy of the Caller’s Card and make some tokens for your players.
Each word on the BinGROW Caller’s Card is hidden somewhere in the text! Read this informative lesson aloud to your students and have them listen for each word or phrase. They only need four in a row to win, so don’t be afraid to award multiple winners.
We think Organics Unlimited bananas make great prizes for your BinGROW winners, but maybe you’ll give out bananas to every participant just for playing! They’ll be excited to try these tasty, socially responsible bananas. And each one they each contributes to a better world – which just makes them that much more sweeter!
GROW Steps Up
The global pandemic has changed life as we know it. Virtually every facet of our day-to-day activities has been altered. Before the pandemic, GROW sent funds to organizations such as Project Amigo in Mexico and Children International in Ecuador for educational and medical purposes. With the advent of Covid-19 it became necessary to change the way in which these funds were distributed to the students and families of Organics Unlimited farming communities to help in ways that were needed during a pandemic.
While many schools sought to protect students by implementing mask-wearing policies and disinfecting procedures, not every student was able to attend in-class learning. Children of all ages were sent home for the school year in order to attend virtual classes. This left families with a new set of costs and challenges. In order to help these individuals, funds that typically would have gone to providing transportation and in-person studying were used to provide each student with a computer, internet access, school equipment and supplies necessary for attending online classes. The families of students were delivered food, household items and cleaning supplies to supplement their reduced family incomes. Rice, beans, eggs, cereal, canned goods, toilet paper and soap provided many families much needed relief.
Even though the pandemic has continued to create problems for many individuals, GROW is proud to provide funding to families in Mexico and Ecuador to help combat these challenges. By supporting this program and buying GROW bananas, you are providing a lifeline for these children and their families as well as a pathway out of poverty. We thank you for your support and hope you will continue to assist the GROW program!