6 Companies Who Show They Care By Growing in a
Leafy Green Machine!
Companies that Care Day (March 18th) isn’t widely celebrated, but we believe that it should be! We’re putting Companies that Care Day on the map to recognize six small and large companies we work closely with. By farming with the Leafy Green Machine, these companies are making important strides to improve the physical and mental health of their employees, customers, and surrounding communities.
If you haven’t heard of this food service giant, we’re not sure where you’ve been the past 50 years! Today, Sodexo is one of the largest multinational corporations, with over 420,000 employees at 34,000 sites in 80 countries. As a dominant company in the food service industry, Sodexo could easily operate as it has over the past half-century without making any changes. Instead, Sodexo has dedicated countless resources to promoting nutrition, health, and wellness to its clients, consumers, and employees.
One concrete way Sodexo works to bring sustainability and wellness to its global customer base is through the Better Tomorrow Plan, in which Sodexo commits to protecting and restoring the environment, supporting local community development, promoting health and wellness, and developing their team to promote diversity. To achieve these goals, Sodexo partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Fair Trade USA, the Marine Stewardship Council, the Sustainable Food Lab, the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, and Freight Farms.
"An important piece for Sodexo is our ‘Better Tomorrow Plan’ [which] specifically focuses on individuals, our communities, and our environment…Freight Farms has given us a great opportunity to have that engagement with students on a higher level, especially with sustainability,”
Heather Vaillete, District Manager, Sodexo Campus Services and Independent Schools
Since 2016, Sodexo has worked with Clark University (MA) and Cumberland High School (RI) to place Freight Farms on their campuses in an effort to add sustainable and fresh produce to the everyday menu. Sodexo found that using the Leafy Green Machine allows food service staff to provide students with fresh and healthy options on a continuous basis. In 2018, Sodexo hopes to add two more campuses to its Freight Farms program as a key method of achieving its Better Tomorrow resolutions.
"Employees have typically struggled a bit to put fresh vegetables on the table all winter. Last year was particularly bad, as vegetables often had to be thrown out because they didn’t last.”
Gina Rodriguez, Food Service Manager, Sodexo (The Valley Breeze)
2) Rally House Farms
Rally House Farms is a for-profit business run by Rally House, a non-profit recovery center in Nashville, TN. Rally House believes that financial insecurity can be a major stressor for people in early recovery, often thwarting their efforts to become healthy again.
Rally House Farms creates a workplace that is both nurturing and rewarding for their employees. The at-risk young men working in the hydroponic container farm can reap the benefits of methodically working with their hands in a green environment, which is known to help fight stress, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, having the men engage in the task of providing Nashville residents with good, nutritious (and delicious!) food gives the added psychological benefit of accomplishing meaningful work.
Everlane is a relatively new company (founded in 2010) which is taking huge strides in reforming the fashion industry. With a focus on “radical transparency”, Everlane’s mission is to sell high quality clothing with fair pricing and ethical sourcing practices from factories around the world. In doing so, they seek to forge a stronger connection between the end purchaser and the people making the luxury goods in the hopes of instilling consumers with a greater sense of community and transparency.
While Everlane commits to its values all year round, they go above and beyond for their Black Friday Fund. On a day where other retailers focus on making profits, Everlane dedicates Black Friday shopping proceeds to benefit one of their factories.
In 2016, they used the Black Friday Fund to donate helmets to workers at the Saitex denim factory in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to protect moped commuters. The next year, Everlane and Saitex raised $300,000 for the 2017 Black Friday Fund. With this money, they gifted the Saitex factory employees three Leafy Green Machines.
Just like the helmets were donated to help ensure the safety of their employees, Everlane donated the hydroponic farms to protect the workers, although this time from a very different threat. Due to little (if any) regulations, Vietnamese food supplies have been repeatedly doused with dangerous pesticides that are unsafe for consumption (see source). The hydroponic container farms are protected from pests and require no pesticides, making the fresh crops growing inside much safer to eat. With the three Leafy Green Machines, Everlane will make a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of Saitex employees by providing them with two fresh and pesticide-free meals a day.
4) Zeponic Farms
Like Rally House Farms, Zeponic Farms also employs adults that are typically overlooked in the mainstream hiring pool. Founder Zach Zepf partnered with MasonLIFE at George Mason University to hire young adults with special needs–with a brother diagnosed with autism, the partnership is close to Zepf’s own heart. Today, Zepf’s brother, Nic, works in the Leafy Green Machine with fellow special needs adults. In turn, Zeponic Farms sells their produce back to Sodexo (yeah, same guys!) who service the dining halls at George Mason University.
“The shipping container model [is] small, but it turned out to be a great learning tool for my brother and other adults with special needs getting introduced to the new industry.”
Zach Zepf, Zeponic Farms
Zepf is also passionate about providing his employees with meaningful work, where they are able to understand the full importance of what they’re doing: “Whether it was planting the seeds, harvesting the greens, or handing produce to the chefs, we wanted them to feel connected to the community, and by starting in a smaller environment, I think they really got it.” We’re not the only ones who think Zeponic Farms is doing important work: in 2016 they won the Score Award for an Outstanding Green Business.
Read more about Zeponic Farms in our Q&A!
5) Grow Local
Patrick Stoffer was one of our first EU farmers, and he has an incredible story. To start, this 26-year-old lives and works at Humanitas, a retirement facility in Deventer, the Netherlands. There, he operates a Leafy Green Machine as part of his Grow Local business. In exchange for free room and board, Stoffer employs Humanitas’ residents as part of the community’s program to connect the young with the old. Stoffer explains, “as a young person, you bring joy back into the house and the lives of the Humanitas residents.”
"I feel that [Humanitas] has offered me so much in terms of support and a place to live, and that’s why I wanted to give something back to it...These days I even get the help of my 90-year-old friend and roommate who has become my ‘marketing manager’. I love the way that the LGM™ is making a tremendous impact on my community by bringing us together through teaching, learning and experimenting together."
Patrick Stoffer, Grow Local
With help from the community’s elderly farmers, Patrick serves fresh food to the Humanitas dining services and to restaurants in the surrounding community. On top of providing local produce, Stoffer has brought a valuable new activity to his elderly community. Not only are the residents able to fill their days with meaningful work, but the LGM is a great tool for aging farmers: there’s no stooping, kneeling, bending, or heavy lifting involved.
Read more about Grow Local in our Q&A!
SEFCU is a powerful name in the banking world. Established in 1934, it is one of the 50 largest credit unions in the United States, with more than $3 billion in assets. Not only does SEFCU have a lot of money – they also have a lot of heart. From their headquarters in Albany, NY, they are dedicated to making a positive difference in the communities they serve. They assist thousands of organizations through their 2008 Banking with a Purpose initiative and give millions of dollars towards community financial education programs. They don’t limit themselves to just helping with financial matters, but also work hard for food reform to prevent obesity and food insecurity. They’ve even gone so far as to purchase a Leafy Green Machine to help in their efforts!
Happy Companies that Care Day! We hope next year we can profile even more wonderful companies who are trying to change their communities for the better!
Are you interested in joining these companies as a container farmer who cares? We're happy to help you find a way to integrate a Leafy Green Machine into a number of different for- and non-profit projects!