Joy Stoddard: The Best Job is Giving Back

December 3 - Sarah Ashlock


When the USDA determines how many people go hungry in the United States, they collect data through strategies like a questionnaire. They say 1 in 6 people have food insecurity, meaning a lack of access or enough food. When I heard that so many people face hunger, it made me realize the person next to me or someone I work with or kids who are getting on the school bus in my neighborhood could be going hungry. If you ever have the opportunity, consider asking some of the questions provided by the USDA: Do you ever run out of food before you have money to buy more? Have you cut the size or skipped a meal because of money? If so, how often?

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 24.2 Percent

Like Mister Rogers said, you can always find the helpers. While food scarcity is a real crisis, there are also helpers doing what they can to make to reduce worldwide hunger. Of all the volunteer activities in the United States, 24.2 percent are food collection or distribution. Some of the best foods to donate are canned or dried fruits and veggies, like diced tomatoes and shelf-stable fruit cups. Canned and dry beans are awesome, too, as well as peanut butter and oatmeal.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Joy Stoddard, Director of Development and Outreach at Whole Planet Foundation at Whole Foods Market

You may not know that behind the aisles of kombucha and seasonal produce at the popular grocery store Whole Foods is a nonprofit called Whole Planet Foundation. Whole Foods began setting up its private organization more than a decade ago to empower individuals in the impoverished countries from which the company sources its products. Today’s Woman to Watch, Joy Stoddard, acts as the director of development and outreach at Whole Planet Foundation.

Joy and the team behind Whole Planet Foundation have used microfinancing to fund projects and opportunities to the hungry, and they’ve disbursed $70 million (and counting!) While that’s a hefty load to manage, Joy has always been a giver. Her first job was as a candy striper. At only 12 years old, she understood the value that service can have on an individual and a community.

Before heading to Whole Planet, Joy practiced the service of giving back yet again at the longstanding organization the International Monetary Fund. As she learned the significance of sustainable economic growth and financial stability, Joy saw how even the smallest of loans can guide women to financial independence and freedom.

Joy says that what’s made her life complete is identifying and then following her purpose. She has learned through trial and error the importance of aligning her values to those of her employer. That’s something that often doesn’t make it into the business books or the career podcasts, but it should. She’s also learned from the international communities that Whole Planet has served through her globetrotting experiences by changing her purchasing power to support fair trade artisans and ethically sourced products.

Whole Planet Foundation has a worldwide reach, offering microloans to majority women entrepreneurs. The average initial loan is a mere $180 and has a big impact. The world is a big place, in case you didn’t realize, and so I appreciate Joy’s advice about how we can help. She suggests to start locally: Volunteer at Meals on Wheels or your local food bank. Start a fundraiser on Facebook. Whatever you do, just get involved.


As Joy Stoddard said:

"Following my purpose has made my entire life better."

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