Erik Mandell, a Contributor to Mercy Corps’ Global Envision Blog, Interviews Rick Peyser, Director of Supply Chain and Community Outreach for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.
If coffee farmers can’t adequately feed their families, they’re unlikely to be able to take care of the plants that produce the high-quality coffee beans importers want.
That’s one reason a group of competitors are coming together as colleagues in addressing hunger issues in coffee-growing communities. The Coffeelands Food Security Coalition is comprised of six coffee companies—Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Starbucks, Counter Culture, Farmer Brothers, S&D Coffee, and Sustainable Harvest—partnering to fight hunger and expand economic opportunities for coffee-producing families through its inaugural project, a three-year program in Nicaragua called “Empowering Food Secure Communities.”
The coalition recognizes that challenges facing families and communities make it hard for farming families to thrive and to produce the best quality product. The coalition emerged from a long-time commitment by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) to prevent seasonal hunger and diversify income generation in the communities where they source their coffee. Global Envision interviewed Rick Peyser, Director of Supply Chain and Community Outreach for GMCR, about working with competitors to improve conditions in coffee-growing regions and challenges facing the industry. An edited transcript of the interview follows.
Global Envision: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) has been involved in partnerships to address hunger in coffee-sourcing regions for many years. How does the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition differ from previous work related to this issue? How did past partnerships or programs contribute to the development of this program?
Rick Peyser: Other than disaster relief, the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition is the first pre-competitive initiative GMCR has participated in with others in the specialty coffee industry to fund a project focused on improving the quality of life for coffee farming families at the household level. GMCR’s focus on food security projects in coffee communities over the past 5 years has led us to see the tremendous value in collaboration.
Food security, like climate change, clean water, and other pressing challenges, are too large for any single company to solve by itself. A broader approach is called for, and collaboration that brings together a variety of players in and adjacent to the supply chain makes sense to us.
In a recent interview with The Specialty Coffee Chronicle you discussed your many past roles with GMCR and in the coffee industry. What’s been your favorite or most unique role? Can you speak about what factors over time have contributed to such a strong CSR focus for GMCR and the development of your personal passion in this area?
Perhaps my most rewarding role is the one I currently hold within GMCR – Director of Supply Chain Community Outreach. I have been with GMCR for over 25 years, and have always been drawn to small-scale coffee farming families – the source of most of the fine coffees we purchase and roast.
During interviews with coffee farmers in Nicaragua in 2007, one farmer after another in community after community told me that his/her family suffered from three to four months of extreme scarcity of food each year during what is known as “los meses flacos” (the thin months), which come after the harvest ends. Hearing this directly from farmers changed not only GMCR’s approach to Corporate Social Responsibility interventions, but me personally.
I became convinced that before we could begin to address coffee quality, we had to address the issue of food security that is fundamental to health, human energy, and life. I also recognized that if farmers could not adequately feed themselves and their families, they were not going to feed their coffee plants that would ultimately provide us with high quality coffee that we rely on.
Since these interviews, GMCR has focused on helping farming families develop on-the-farm resiliency, with a primary focus on food security.
This Blog was previously published on Global Envision and is reproduced here with permission.