Buy olive oil, help empower women

Do you care whether the food you buy comes with a conscience? Australian olive oil producer Jeremy Meltzer’s has reason to believe you do.


Jeremy Meltzer, Australian olive oil producer and social entrepreneur. (Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

Further, 76 percent of those surveyed had purchased a product within the past year that had a positive environmental impact, and 65 percent had bought a product or service associated with a cause.

The last time we checked in with Meltzer, he and his father, Howard, had begun exporting their small-estate, varietal Yellingbo Gold Extra-Virgin Olive Oil in recyclable cardboard casks as well as bottles. From the start, the family business donated a portion of its profits to Indonesian children in distress from the 2004 tsunami.

Now Meltzer, 36, considers himself a social entrepreneur. He spends about four months of the year on the road to promote 2+U=Change, his online platform that underwrites programs aiding the health and safety of women and children worldwide.

Sometimes the journey means he has to sell some oil, of course, and so he’s worked his way into a few dozen lifestyle magazines. He’s cooked with Martha Stewart on the small screen, as you can watch above.


Girls in a school in an ethnic Burmese refu­gee camp in Maesot, Thailand. (Jeremy Meltzer)

“Some of these people have been there for more than 20 years,” he says, “living in houses with paper walls. The women are victims of a systematic rape and ethnic cleansing. It’s heartbreaking to see.” As many as 90,000 are in the camps, he says, and dozens of NGOs are on hand to help.

Meltzer and Yellingbo, which packages 6,000 liters of olive oil annually, help support a number of empowerment projects for women, including the Girl Effect, Women for Women International and the White Ribbon Campaign. “I want to make people aware of these issues,” he says. “Selling olive oil isn’t a bad way to go about it. The 2+U campaign turns every customer of ours into a philanthropist — whether they like it or not.”

He designed a system to work just that way. Order Yellingbo olive oil through the company’s Web site and a prompt will ask which of a half-dozen causes you wish to direct the built-in donation toward, and there’s an opportunity to give extra. His olive oil, which is used by top chefs in his home country, does not come cheap; the 2-liter cardboard cask is now priced at $89 in Williams-Sonoma stores (a “huge get” after much negotiation, he says) but $49.50 online.

Yellingbo’s harvest is in May instead of the fall, when much of the rest of the world’s olive growers gather, sort, crush and press. A blend of corregiola, frantoio, leccino, barnea and manzanilla olives makes the Meltzers’ product complex and a little fruity, with a peppery finish. Perhaps with the upcoming holiday on his mind, the nice Jewish boy in Jeremy obligates him to mention that his oil is certified kosher as well as kosher for Passover. If you’re looking for a feel-good gift for your Seder host, this could well be the ticket.

Through Saturday, April 7, readers of All We Can Eat can receive a 10-percent discount on orders through Yellingbo’s Web site. Use the promotion code GIVE10.

Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes: washingtonpost.com/recipes.

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