The concept of “microcredit” is not necessarily a new one, but savvy entrepreneurs are leveraging the opportunities provided by micro financing to jump start economic growth in underserved communities. These small loans are making it possible for entrepreneurs to invest in the economic future of families and communities to create jobs while eliminating much of the risk associated with investing in small businesses. Microcredit investments have already funded several Oakland-based startups focusing on organic food, entrepreneurial diversity and job creation.

In the same tradition, Whole Foods Market launched the Whole Planet Foundation, whose mission is poverty alleviation through microcredit in communities around the world that supply their stores with products.

Currently the Whole Planet Foundation is funding micro lending programs throughout 59 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the US – offering more than 1.95 million people with a chance for a better life. The average loan is just $175 USD with a repayment rate of 97%.

Silvia Location: Temuco Silvia is 36 years old and in her own words she does un poco de todo “a little bit of everything” One of her businesses is cooking traditional cuisine which she sells from home. Her clients are her neighbors and friends and when she is making a dish she hangs a sign on her front porch, or simply lets people know by word of mouth. Her son also chips in and helps marketing via Facebook, letting people know that today his mom is making Humitas, Pastel do Choclo or Gnocchi. She started with a loan of 80,000 pesos (about $170 USD) and used this loan to buy a cooler to store her product as to finance the purchase of the raw materials needed for the recipes. The loan is important to her because her family needed money as her husband wasn’t working at the time so things were tight. Her dream is to have her own restaurant someday and serve many more clients. Her advice to other s and her life philosophy is con carino las cosas slain rice, “with love everything is better.”

Silvia of Temuco, Chile. Image courtesy of Whole Foods Market.

For entrepreneurs like 36-year-old Silvia, who cooks traditional Chilean cuisine and sells it to her friends and neighbors out of her small home in Temuco, a microloan can help make dreams a reality. She started with a loan of 80,000 pesos (about $170 USD) to buy a cooler and purchase materials needed in her recipes. With a husband out of work and children to support, the Whole Planet Foundation microloan was a life saver in paving the way towards her ultimate dream of opening her own restaurant.

What’s truly different about the Whole Planet Foundation’s microcredit program is that you can actually visit people, like Silvia from Temuco, and see your investment at work. Consider becoming a Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer and meet microcredit clients, see where Whole Foods products are grown and learn from other cultures, and challenge yourself to explore around the globe.

Supporting the Whole Planet Foundation is simple:

  1. Donate at any register at Whole Foods Market Oakland.
  2. Launch your own personalized campaign to fundraise for microcredit entrepreneurs in communities that supply Whole Foods Market stores and facilities with products.
  3. Start a Campus or Community Effort and join Whole Foods to enroll students, professors and alumni to engage in Whole Planet Foundation’s mission of alleviating poverty worldwide.

The Annual Prosperity Campaign lasts through March 31, 2014.

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