Pinball, Haute Cuisine, and Holiday Giving

I am tempted to blog satirically about our national post-Thanksgiving pastime in which, at least as I imagine it, a significant proportion of Americans leave the warmth of their homes, families, and in some cases beds, in order to line up outside Wal-Marts.  There, after waiting for hours in the cold, they are equipped with shiny silver shopping carts, spring loaded, and then shot into the store like human pinballs to careen madly through the aisles, frantically pulling things into their carts that they weren’t certain they’d wanted but must be pretty sweet deals because, after all, they were up half the night trying to get their hands on one of them… What fun.

I didn’t grow up in this country.  I think my whole family is still slightly baffled by certain traditions.  A few years ago, my dad gave everybody a toothbrush for Christmas.  (I might add, it was one of my all-time favorite gifts.)

Transient

As traditions go, the whole stuff yourself-up-to-your-eyeballs-with-amazing-food thing we did this week has always been entirely accessible to me.  But rather than follow it with the pinball experience, I watched a little movie on my little phone about a woman who leaves the most prestigious culinary position in the world as personal chef to le président Francois Mitterrand (because a cruel dietician forbids the serving of sauces), and sets sail for a tiny windswept island off Antarctica, where she serves fois gras, dried cèpes, and duck breasts to a crowd of rough-and-tumble ruffians.  In the final scenes (spoiler alert!) the ruffians are redeemed in a theatrical homage to the chef-heroine and she teaches a hardnosed Australian videographer how to pronounce the classic French u ([y]) in truffles with properly pursed lips.  Truffles. “Better than gold,” she says.  Which makes them a pretty sweet deal.

It’s a good movie.  (Haute Cuisine, available on Netflix.) I would even recommend it on a full stomach.  I suppose it goes to show you we’re all from our own planet.

But right now, in honor of Cyber Monday, I need to write about another sweet deal.

Try to imagine this.  A few years from now, maybe we could set up several granola projects in, say, 25 cities across the US.  Each one would bake fresh, hand-made, locally sourced, granola products, delicious enough for a French president, healthy enough for any nasty dietician. (Even sauces will pass muster since a plain, heart-healthy yogurt will do.)  And each of these operations could provide an onramp into the job market for 20-30 refugees each year.

It’s not inconceivable. When we decided to become a non-profit, part of our goal was replication.  That’s when our efforts will really start to pay off.  These new granola projects could rely on us as a template.  We’d provide recipes and instructions.  They’d use our production and packaging solutions.  They’d piggyback on our web site.  With our reputation for cereal haute cuisine established, marketing in new local markets would be easier.  Increased scale would permit better deals on raw ingredients.

And the impact?  I realize that 750 refugees (i.e. 25 granola company chapters working with 30 per year) might be just a blip on the national job-development radar, but the test of impact is not size but how much gets accomplished.  It’s hard to imagine a more strategic demographic than newly arrived refugees.  Nearly every refugee we work with becomes the first in their family to find a job. Many become leaders in their new and growing ethnic communities.  Whatever happens—good or bad—snowballs.  Experience builds expectations.  Will refugees see themselves as insiders or outsiders? Are they in a system that rewards persistence and hard work?  Will they be allowed to contribute or forced to rely on handouts?  Will their cultural strengths be seen as assets?  Is all that effort to integrate, and learn English, and become citizens worth it? Can language or literacy barriers be overcome?  Do their kids really have a chance if they apply themselves in school? How real is hope?

At Beautiful Day, we are sold on the importance of refugee resettlement in Rhode Island—not as charity, but as vital to the health, growth, compassion, diversity and joy of our community.  Sure, resettlement is expensive on the front end.  Ultimately, as refugees get jobs and get organized and integrate and eventually start businesses, it can be a sweet deal—a black Friday kind of deal for our state.  But only if they actually settle here.  And unless they see opportunities to contribute economically, refugees will not want to stay in Rhode Island.  This, of course, is one reason Beautiful Day exists.

So here’s our value proposition for the holidays:  buy some granola.  Why not buy a lot of granola?  You probably know we now make granola bars.  We hope you'll consider making a box of bars your go-to gift this season. Sure, they're more expensive than Wal-Mart.  We can’t offer you any pinball experience or cyber discounts.  But in our own unique way, we think we offer a pretty sweet bargain.  Your friends will receive a unique, hand-made, delicious, healthy, satisfying gift—some of the best granola bars ever.  And on top, a few things can happen:

a) A door opens for your friends to learn about refugee resettlement.

b) Your friends will be challenged to see refugees not simply as a vulnerable population, but as potential employees--people who want, more than almost anything, to find a job.

c) And with each bar or bag or gift, they get to participate in meeting that challenge.  This is part of the beauty of our endeavor.  We're not just educating people about a challenge facing refugees, but we're giving people a simple way to be involved.

Our goal, with your help, is to sell about 8000 granola bars and 2000 bags of granola this holiday season.  There are a few ways you can help make this happen:  You can order individual gifts through our online store.  We’ve also put together a bulk order form specifically made for companies, churches, or individuals ordering gifts in bulk.  Each gift includes a beautiful hand-signed card of Arabic calligraphy made by one of our employees.

This year we've also put together a simple way for you to give someone a gift by making a tax-deductible end-of-year donation in their name.   They will receive a card explaining this gift, and in some cases, a granola sampler.  You can find out all about it here.

Thanks you for your help and partnership in accomplishing our mission.  And happy Cyber Monday!  May it be filled with wonderful deals.