Friday, January 8, 2010

The Women's Bean Project

Do you have someone on your gift list who doesn’t need anything, but you still want to wrap up a little something? Do you know someone who prefers practical gifts?

Would you like your gifts to benefit someone other than mega-companies in foreign lands?
Do you want to send some Colorado products to friends and family elsewhere? And do you want to buy those products locally?

You can wrap all of that up with just one purchase from The Women’s Bean Project. Founded in 1989, the Women’s Bean Project helps women break out of the cycle of poverty and unemployment by giving them jobs that act as stepping stones to other employment.

Jossy Eyre, the founder of the project, saw that women’s homeless shelters kept women safe, but didn’t help them better themselves. She bought $500 worth of beans, and put two homeless women to work, and the idea grew from there.

Today, women are referred to the project by parole officers, shelters and other agencies. Many of the women are single mothers who have been on public assistance, and many don’t have a high school diploma or GED.

The women are given jobs so they have an immediate income while they learn skills that will help them find and keep future employment. According to the project’s website, “The Women's Bean Project does not hire women to make and sell bean products. We make and sell bean products to hire women.”

Meanwhile, the project’s product line has expanded from just bean soup and chili mixes to salsa mixes, spice rubs, baking mixes and more. You can buy single items or gift baskets directly from the company, and several local stores also carry some of the products.

While all of that makes the project sound good, it doesn’t answer the question of how good the products are, so I decided a taste test was essential.

I’m usually not a fan of pre-packaged mixes, but the Women’s Bean Project products aren’t like the boxed mixes that contain unpronounceable chemicals and strange additives. These are normal ingredients that are premeasured and packaged to save you a few steps.

So far, we sampled the black bean soup, the 10-bean soup, and the cornbread mix, and all of them were very good, and the recipes were simple to follow. The bean soup recipes suggested a few optional ingredients, which is nice if you aren’t comfortable making recipe adjustments on your own.

Each of the packages includes a tag with the name of the person who packed it, which is a nice touch. Also on the packaging is the phone number and web address of the project, in case you have any questions.

As of this writing Women’s Bean Project products were available in Colorado at Vitamin Cottage in Longmont; all Colorado King Soopers stores and some Safeway stores. Outside Colorado, see for ordering information and other sales outlets.