Monday, December 22, 2008

Fair Food Foundation Closes due to Madoff!!

I never thought I, the Lighthearted Locavore, would be writing about HOW THE LOCAL FOOD AND FARM MOVEMENT IS AFFECTED BY THE MADOFF SCANDAL except that in my obsessive pursuit of every detail of this riveting and unfolding news story, I've learned that the Fair Food Foundation, a food justice not-for-profit, is one of the latest Madoff casualties to shutter its doors. (I have several friends whose parents, bosses and colleagues invested and lost some money or were totally wiped out. And, I'm involved with a number of charities whose donor lists are a who's who of wealthy victims or members of the Madoff family!)

The Fair Food Foundation was founded to create a healthy food and farm system in Detroit and San Francisco. Unfortunately, they also invested all their money with Madoff.

I am heartbroken by their demise as the Fair Food Foundation had a similar mission to the many organizations that I volunteer with and donate to so it really hit home (I'm on Just Food's Advisory Council, the Food Systems Network NYC's Strategic Planning Committee, and I give money to several food charities including West Side Campaign Against Hunger, Just Food, and City Harvest). City Harvest lists Bernie and Ruth Madoff as donors ($15,000) and Just Food received funds from Jennifer Madoff in 2007. (As an aside, NY City Center got hit particulary hard with a huge number of board members as victims. "Uncle Bernie", Mr. Bernie Madoff, himself is on the City Center's board!!! ).

Dozens, maybe even hundreds, of cultural, health and medical charities will emerge in addition to the myriad of Jewish causes that may no longer be funded by the Madoff investors.

In January 2008, The Fair Food Foundation announced its launch and declared its mission.
"Because the Foundation believes access to fresh, healthy food is a basic human right, it will promote the development of a fair and equitable food system that makes fresh, local and sustainable food available to all by reconnecting urban and rural communities and empowering local leadership." Press Release, January 2008.
Last week, they announced their closing.
"Dear Friends and Supporters,
The Fair Food Foundation is ceasing operation as a grant making foundation. The funds of the donors to the Foundation were managed by Bernard L. Madoff, a prominent financial advisor who was arrested for defrauding investors out of billions of dollars. Due to the loss of funding, Fair Food Foundation is no longer in a position to consider any requests for funding. We will be spending the next few weeks closing down our operation. Thank you for your interest in the Foundation and its mission to work with historically excluded urban communities to design a food system that upholds the fundamental right to healthy, fresh and sustainably-grown food.

The loss of the Fair Food Foundation and the potential financial support it would have provided is a stinging blow to the community of activists, advocates, organizers, and funders dedicated to redesigning our broken food system. I am heartened by the strong support that has rallied around the vision of a food system that creates health for our children, our communities and our environment. All of us at Fair Food Foundation remain totally committed to the mission we have articulated and will find ways to bring our talents, skills and energies to continue working toward a more sustainable and equitable future. We encourage you to do the same!

Yours in fairness,
Oran B. Hesterman, President and CEO"
Website, December 2008
I'm feeling pretty heavy-hearted about the brazen disregard by Madoff (and his yet to be disclosed accomplices -- I trust there are many) for the tens of thousands of lives (the investors, the charities, the advocates, the domestic help, the children, the hungry and disadvantaged, the non-profits, the business folks and the locavores) that are reeling from the collapse of this decades long Ponzi scheme.

Where's the justice for the Fair Food Foundation? Where's the justice for the likes of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and other advocates for social justice? (And, while I'm asking questions, Where was the SEC all these years?) TRAGIC.

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