An Eco-Friendly Food Lovers’ Gift Guide for Life During a Pandemic

by FoodPrint


This year we were all presented with some paradoxes that felt impossible to reconcile: stock up your pantry for isolation but don’t leave the grocery store shelves bare for others. Stay home, but support local restaurants. As the December holidays roll around  — typically marked by the giving of gifts — more paradoxes await. For many people, finances are especially tight right now; buying things beyond necessities feels out of reach. But all of us are missing dear ones and looking for ways to show love and feel closeness when we cannot be close. We may feel that nonessential things are not important. But the small businesses we love are struggling and need our dollars desperately.

Here at FoodPrint we have never been fans of consumption-driven gift guides. In years past we’ve urged you to think about eco-friendly gift ideas; to make things — like orange spice rub or reusable sandwich bags — or consider giving your friends and family the gift of experiences or your time — like a cooking lesson taught by you. We still stand by those ideas! They still feel right this year.

But this year, more than ever, there are also ways to support our food system with gifts that give back. For a food lover or environmental activist, a donation to the right cause or subscription to a publication telling important stories could be a more meaningful gift than any material item ever would be. With that spirit in mind, read on for more ideas for gifts that give back.

Make a Donation in Someone’s Name

If you are able, choose an organization whose work is meaningful to you or to the person you’re gifting and make a donation. Right now, hunger is a huge problem for many people. As of late November, around 26 million people in this country do not have enough to eat. Find a local food bank, feeding organization or mutual aid society (this tool from Eater can help) that is making sure your neighbors have enough to eat. Or donate to an organization that fights for a more equitable food system that takes better care of farmers, as well as food and farmworkers. Examples include Foodchain Workers Alliance, HEAL Food Alliance, National Black Food and Justice Alliance, United Farmworkers, North American Traditional Food Systems or the National Young Farmers Coalition.

Give or Donate (or both!) an Experience- or Learning-based Gift

Research shows that experiences bring us more joy than stuff does. But these days, experiences are in short supply. Most of us are not traveling, not taking in-person classes or seeing in-person performances. So where does that leave us? As usual, a little creativity may be needed. You could help a child in your life learn about the journey of food from field to fork with a Farm to Home Explorer Kit monthly subscription from Small Bites (which has a Buy 1, Give 1 option for making a subscription donation to a child in need). You could give the gift of online cooking classes, with a gift card to 18 Reasons, a San Francisco-based nonprofit community cooking school. Or donate your own time! If you’re a gardening pro, you could give a gift certificate for your skills setting up a spring gardening plan or a new compost pile.

Support an Author by Buying a Book about Food & Agriculture 

There are a lot of important books about the food system, some old and some new. For authors whose books came out during the pandemic, it’s been really tough to get the word out about their books, so we definitely recommend supporting them, if you can. You can find some new books about corporate control here on our site, and a longer list of recent books over at Civil Eats.

Give a Subscription to Sustainable Food and Farming Publication

There is some terrific writing about food and farming out there, and you can support it by buying a subscription — and/or making a donation if it’s published by a nonprofit newsroom— for a loved one who loves learning about food. Publications like Civil Eats, The Food and Environment Reporting Network, The Counter (formerly New Food Economy) and The Daily Yonder (for its agriculture coverage) are all good ideas. You could also donate to a publication that doesn’t exist yet but is being built: the highly anticipated, For the Culture. Or sign someone up for our weekly emails (free!). Or consider buying someone a subscription to a seasonal recipe guide.

Support A Beloved Restaurant

With indoor dining restricted, attendance down and varying safety regulations imposed on restaurant operations, the hospitality industry has suffered greatly during 2020; the National Restaurant Association projects the industry will lose $240 billion by the end of the year. While it may not be safe to take your friends out for a holiday dinner at their favorite restaurants, you can purchase gift cards for them to use now or later to support their local haunts. Websites like Support Local and Local for Later can help connect you with restaurants selling gift cards for later use. Making a donation to an advocacy group supporting workers in the hospitality industry, such as the Southern Smoke Foundation and Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, is also an option.

For a more tangible gift, you can purchase art through projects like Family Meal and Eat Draw Repeat, both benefiting restaurants and their employees. Many restaurants sell cookbooks, totes, tshirts, mugs, and more. Check out your favorite restaurant’s website or social media channels to see what they’re offering or see Eater’s round-up for some great options, including cheeky Negroni To-Goni apparel supporting the Bartender’s Guild support relief fund. Or give loved ones a taste of what they are missing by giving food products from their favorite restaurants. (Bon Appetit has a good list of national options.)


Top photo by Stock.

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