Whole Foods Market began as a small natural grocery store in Austin, Texas with a mission to sell meat and poultry free of growth hormones and antibiotics, unprocessed grains and cereals, and a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables. Over time, Whole Foods Market expanded into other states and countries with its unique approach to offering whole foods while promoting environmental sustainability, local and international community service, and supporting employee happiness and excellence. Over the years, Whole Foods Market has grown into an international chain of natural food supermarkets operating over 340 stores in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Scotland.

Luciana - Brazil small

Luciana is a microentreprenuer from Sao Paulo, Brazil. She used her Whole Planet loan to start a business selling fruits and vegetables. Photo credit: Whole Planet Foundation/Evan Lambert.

Whole Foods Market just so happens to be one of my favorite places to grocery shop as it offers many organic and “real” foods, not all the processed garbage that has become a huge part of the American diet. Through the work I do as a social good blogger and advocate, I discovered that behind Whole Foods Market’s widely successfully business is a foundation that is doing some pretty amazing things to give back to the communities in which they source their products.

So how did it all began? It all started by an inspiration. Whole Planet was founded in the fall of 2005 after Co-CEO John Mackay attended a talk by Muhammad Yunus, one of the world’s most renown crusaders and economists for the poor who developed the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work lifting millions out of poverty in Bangladesh. Mackay was so inspired after hearing Yunus speak, that they worked together to create Whole Planet Foundation which provides a way to give back to the many different communities around the world that Whole Foods Markets sources their food. Whole Planet was set up around the same entrepreneurial ideas as the Grameen Bank and its objective is help alleviate some of the world’ greatest problems of poverty and hunger through the provision of microfinancing, training and other financial services to the self-employed poor.

“Microcredit ignites the tiny economic engines of the rejected underclass of society. Once a large number of tiny engines start working, the stage can be set for bigger things.”

Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank

  Amina is a microcredit client of Grameen Ghana, Whole Planet Foundation’s implementing partner in northern Ghana. By providing $100,000 per year since 2010, Whole Planet Foundation has directly supported more than 5,100 new microcredit clients. Grameen Ghana has 12,806 active clients and a repayment rate of 98% as of May 2013. Photo by WPF's Genie Bolduc

Amina is a microcredit client of Grameen Ghana, Whole Planet Foundation’s implementing partner in northern Ghana. By providing $100,000 per year since 2010, Whole Planet Foundation has directly supported more than 5,100 new microcredit clients. Grameen Ghana has 12,806 active clients and a repayment rate of 98% as of May 2013. Photo by Whole Planet Foundation/ Genie Bolduc.

I conducted a short interview with Daniel Vidal head of Whole Planet Foundation’s Social Media to learn more about how Whole Planet works. I was amazed at what I learned about this amazing spirit of corporate giving.

How does Whole Planet work?

Basically Whole Planet raises money to distribute to microfinancing institutions in the countries where they work. They use locally-based institutions on the ground who work directly with the microentrepreneurs who in turn use their loans to start or expand their home-based businesses. It is important to note that Whole Planet is helping the struggling local industries where they work not the industries that currently are supplying goods to Whole Foods Markets. This makes sense as it enables struggling industries to survive and thrive.

Where does Whole Planet work?

Whole Planet works in the countries where they source their products. Currently Whole Planet is working in 57 different countries on 83 projects. Here is a breakdown Google map showing where Whole Planet is currently operating.

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Where does Whole Planet source their funding?

Since the inception of Whole Planet, they have raised over $43 million dollars (figures through 12/31/12). The funds come from a wide variety of sources including Whole Foods Market itself who funds 100% of the overhead costs. Some of other key players who help fund Whole Planet include donors, suppliers, Whole Food Market Employees and customers as well.

Whole Food Market Customers help in three ways:

  1. Calendar Sales: Every year Whole Foods comes out with a new calendar that is full of gorgeous pictures of where Whole Planet works and loaded with coupons from sponsors. This year’s calendar is on sale now. To see the calendar click here. There is also more information on the calendar below.
  2. Annual Propensity Campaign: This is a six-week campaign during the months of Febuary and March has brought in $6.2 million for Whole Planet.
  3. Through the purchase of certain products sold with the stores.

However, what I found so amazing is that over $4.7 million of total funds raised for Whole Planet were contributed by Whole Foods Market employees through optional paycheck reductions. Now that is impressive! Whole Foods Market employees are also eligible to participate in various international volunteer trips where Whole Food “team members” can see Whole Planet’s operations on the ground and provide community service. Just last year over 100 team members went abroad and came back with an entirely new perspective and dedication to their work.

Boun - Loas small

Boun is an entrepreneur from Laos. She has been a client of WFDF since the new WPF supported branch opened in her area in July 2012. Her first and current loan cycle is in the amount of 2,000,000 Kip ($261 USD) which she has utilized to purchase materials for her mushrooms cultivation business. Photo credit: Whole Planet Foundation/Daniel Zoltani

I honestly had no idea that such a fabulous non-profit organization existed behind the scenes of Whole Foods Market. It makes me even more excited than ever to shop there knowing that indirectly I’m helping people around the world live a better life. Following is some additional information from Whole Foods Market regarding the upcoming sales of the 2014 calendar. I hope to purchase mine soon!

2014 Whole Planet Calendar

Thanks to supplier sponsors, 100% of calendar proceeds are donated to Whole Planet Foundation for poverty alleviation in communities worldwide where Whole Foods sources products. The 2014 Calendar retails for $4, includes over $40 in coupon savings from suppliers, features inspiring entrepreneurs from around the globe and will be sold in Whole Foods Market U.S. stores starting October 2013. Calendar funds empower entrepreneurs with a microcredit loan and the opportunity to create or expand a home-based business and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

This year, Whole Planet hopes to raise $250,000 reaching over 8,100 people and giving them the opportunity to better their own lives.

For more information on Whole Planet, click here.


    1. Yes isn’t it cool. I honestly didn’t until they found me on twitter and I followed them back to start learning about their work. A lot of good going on behind the scenes!

  1. I’d heard of this brand but I’ve never been in one of their stores. I’ll definitely hunt them down next time I’m in London (or the USA) though. Thanks for spreading the word about the benefits of whole foods 🙂

  2. Whenever we travel I always scope out if there is a Whole Foods first, as it is my grocer of choice as well. I had no idea of this foundation. You have raised my praise for them a great bit higher thanks to your post Nicole. 🙂

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