Most recently updated: December 2020
Growing up in Jamaica, Mary McLaughlin often ate breadfruit, which she describes as tasting like a bagel when it has been baked or roasted.
Today, McLaughlin, along with her husband, Mike, and a team of volunteers, is using that same breadfruit to combat hunger and environmental issues around the world through the Trees That Feed Foundation.
“I thought, ‘If we could get more people to eat food from trees, that would be a good thing,’” McLaughlin says. “’It would be helping the environment, and we would be able to produce more food for people who need a greater food supply.”
It’s that thinking that made the Trees That Feed Foundation our 2014 Philanthropy Awards winner in the Environment category.
How the foundation works
The foundation’s mission is made up of three goals: plant trees to feed people in developing countries, create jobs and protect the environment.
First, the foundation provides trees with edible fruit and high yields, in addition to necessary equipment and training. Second, their Factory-in-a-Box gives tools that allow locals to produce nutritious, gluten-free breadfruit flour that can be sold or used. Third, the foundation helps farmers turn their fields into agro-forests and focus on trees that don’t require much use of fertilizers, insecticides and other chemicals.
Their efforts have made a lasting impact on countries around the world. In five years, Trees That Feed has planted more than 60,000 trees. Currently, the foundation is working on reforestation in Haiti and planting trees at every school in Jamaica, where the foundation is also working with a group to develop their own factory.
The work this organization is doing is vital, as illustrated by a recent call McLaughlin received from a Jamaican farmer.
“He was phoning not just to thank me, but he said, ‘You’ve given me trees. These trees are about to bear fruit. And this will change my life.’”
Nearly six years later, Trees That Feed is still going strong. COVID-19 has actually accelerated operations, thanks to farmers and greater use of technology.
By The Numbers (updated 2020):
- Over 200,000 fruit trees planted
- Over 2,000 farmers in Haiti, Jamaica and 16 more countries
- 15 hybrid solar dryers to entrepreneurs
- 20 tons of breadfruit flour processed
- Over 1,000,000 meals to thousands of schoolchildren
- Over 10,000 educational coloring and activity books in 8 languages distributed to schools
Read the 2019 Trees That Feed Foundation Annual report here.
This article is part of our 2014 Philanthropy Awards. Find more of our winners here: