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Style Magazine

Whole Planet Foundation

Nov 30, 2012 08:57AM ● By Style

Photos courtesy of Whole Planet Foundation.

For 25-year-old Lourdes, a single mom and general store owner in Paraguay, the future wasn’t always so promising.

Like so many in her country, she grew up poor. Losing her father at 12, Lourdes left rural surrounds for the city; there she found work as a housemaid and dreamt of a self-sustaining tomorrow. Today, with the help of a $40 microloan – a financial advance offered to impoverished borrowers to help finance self-employment projects that requires no collateral – not only does she have her own store, but plans to add a restaurant too.

Helping foster micro-entrepreneurship is Whole Planet Foundation (WPF). Established by Whole Foods Market – heavily committed to giving back to the communities in which it does business – the private, nonprofit organization “helps alleviate poverty throughout the world by providing grants or zero-percent interest local currency loans to microfinance institutions in communities where Whole Foods Market sources products,” explains Philip Sansone, the foundation’s president and executive director. Individuals with access to capital to start their own businesses spark change that allows the working poor to become entrepreneurs and alter their personal circumstances through hard work and ingenuity. In turn, the community as a whole is more sustainable and prosperous.


Miss KPK used her microloan to start a motorcycle repair shop in Sri Lanka

Remarkably, sometimes it’s the smallest, most seemingly insignificant microloans – like $25 for a sewing machine to make clothes, or a goat to launch a dairy business – that can make the biggest difference in the developing world. Oftentimes, this sum can help boost a microentreprenuer’s income from $1-$2 a day to $2-$4, elaborates Sansone. For female borrowers in particular, this can mean better health care for their families and education for their kids, helping keep them in the classroom and off the family farm.

Significantly, the foundation does not target Whole Foods Market growers or suppliers in target communities, but rather their poorest citizens. In 2011, it surpassed its goal of assisting 1 million people; estimates have this number surging to 1.5 million by year’s end. “To date, we’ve authorized more than $32 million and disbursed more than $20 million through microlending partners worldwide,” Sansone says. “That’s a lot of change!”

Actively supporting the foundation locally are Whole Foods Markets in Roseville and Folsom. In Roseville, says Marketing & Community Relations Team Leader Jill Miller, “Our very own team members participate in a payroll deduction program to benefit the nonprofit. Last year, with the help of our gracious customers, the first annual Whole Planet Foundation Gala raised more than $30,000!” Adds Miller’s counterpart in Folsom, Ciara Glass, “Last year, we hosted a silent art auction at Folsom Lake College’s Three Stages. We also have register programs where customers are able to round up their change and/or donate five cents to the foundation if they bring in reusable bags.” Cash donations are also accepted at both locations, and customers who purchase Whole Trade Guarantee products are assured that one percent of every sale goes straight back to the foundation.

The next Whole Planet Foundation Gala will be held this spring (look for details soon). For more information, visit