Gifts for the Ethical Eater

Breaking Vegetarian: Paste's column on eating mindfully

Food Lists Gifts

Food offers so many wonderful opportunities for holiday gift-giving, from bottles of wine to boxes of chocolate, from restaurant gift certificates to homemade pie. But what do you buy for the ethical eater in your life, the person who notices the source of that chocolate, or the organic status of the vineyard? Breaking Vegetarian has got you covered.

Community Supported Agriculture
You know how the sustainable foodies in your life are always talking about buying local? Support them in that endeavor this holiday season by buying them a subscription to a CSA. You can search by zip code at Local Harvest or Local Dirt, or see if you’re within reach of a subscription service like Cape Ann Fresh Catch, Sitka Salmon, or Wallace Farms. While you’re at it, visit a local farm or market and pick up a few creative gifts for all those holiday open houses. Everyone brings wine. Why not a lovely bunch of turnips?

Food cooperative treats
Many ethical eaters struggle to find certain products, like coffee or chocolate, which often come from industries that pay low wages, or leave a massive environmental footprints. But you can help by buying a gift directly from a cooperative that works to ensure fair wages and sustainable growing conditions. Try Peace Coffee, born out of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which works to build local economies to support small-scale, local growers by sourcing directly. For chocolate, try Sweet Riot, which sources exclusively from Fair Trade USA Latin American partners, and offers a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly subscription service.

Donate to a food justice initiative
As an ethical eater, I’m a big proponent of working to change the injustices of the food system, and I do this by spending my food dollars mindfully. But I’m often wishing I had the income to do more to support the systematic work being done by organizations like Sustainable Harvest International, Share Our Strength, Farmworker Justice, Freedom Food Alliance, or The BLK Project. You can also find unique food initiatives to support by searching Kickstarter, like A Moving Feast, a food truck for refugees in Lebanon, or Churchview Farm (in my backyard) both of which also come with donation rewards you can pass on as gifts.

DIY supplies
One of the best ways to eat mindfully is to learn how to make more of your own. If your foodie friend has a green thumb, maybe they’d appreciate a gift membership to Seed Savers Exchange, which works to preserve seed diversity and offers members discounts on heirloom varietals. Help your friend learn to preserve all that delicious local food with Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ‘Em Up, a beginner’s guide to canning. Whether it’s cheese, yogurt, or homegrown herbs, think of the ways in which your ethical eater tries to do it for themselves, and plan a gift that supports them in those endeavors.

Nourish the mind
Ethical eaters know there’s always more to learn, so why not treat your friend to some delicious learning? Check out books like Barry Estabrook’s Pig Tales, or The Sistah Vegan Anthology, which explores feminism, race, and food politics. Give a subscription to one of the most artful magazines on sustainability, Orion. Share a night watching films like Food Chains or Urban Fruit, or even at a sustainable food lecture. Gifts are a great opportunity to expand our thinking, and become better food citizens.

Marissa Landrigan’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, Creative Nonfiction, Orion, Guernica, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, where she completed a food memoir titled “The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat.” She currently lives in western Pennsylvania, where she runs the food-themed reading series Acquired Taste, and teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.

Photo by Jonas Nordlund CC BY-SA

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