Coffee and Grounds for Health

Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is no stranger to community service. Like many other coffee companies that trade directly with coffee growers and their cooperatives, they have championed a number of initiatives to better the lives of those coffee farmers who make it possible for the business to exist. Thus, it’s no real surprise to see that the organization is one of many specialty coffee companies that have contributed more than $25,000 to Grounds for Health, a Waterbury, VT based organization that has been taking on the problem of women’s health since the mid-1990s.

Grounds for Health was founded by members of the specialty coffee industry who traded with farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico. In the course of the relationships that they developed with farmers and others in the small mountain communities, they learned that women in rural Oaxaca suffer much higher rates of cervical and breast cancer than women in the United States. Part of the reason, they learned, is the lack of access to routine health care and cancer screening.

Thus was born Grounds for Health, a volunteer organization that provides cancer screening services to towns in Mexico, Central America and, most recently, Tanzania. Funded in large part by members of the specialty coffee industry, the program makes use of the networks created by coffee cooperatives to reach women in far-flung rural areas with medical services. According to the Grounds for Health web site:

In many countries where coffee is grown, cervical cancer rates are among the highest in the world. However, this disease is both preventable and, when caught early, one of the most treatable cancers.

Our mission is to bring effective cervical cancer screening and treatment to women in coffee-growing communities. We currently work in Mexico, Central America and Tanzania. We use an innovative, affordable and community-appropriate method called the Single Visit Screen & Treat Approach, which has been endorsed by the World Health Organization.

Our work is made possible through partnerships with local coffee co-operatives, national and regional ministries of health, and specialty coffee companies. These partnerships have made it possible for us to bring better and sustainable health care to women in coffee-growing communities.

To maximize donations to the cause, Grounds for Health operates on a volunteer basis. With the exception of the office staff, everyone associated with Grounds for Health is a volunteer. Those volunteers include doctors and other health care providers who travel to the coffee growing regions to provide the screening and health care services. The services are provided in a one-stop treatment campaign as much as possible to maximize the probability that the needed medical procedures will be carried out.

The ultimate goal for each area with which Grounds for Health works is for the area to eventually be able to manage the health care services themselves. This is what happened in Huatasco, Mexico, where Grounds for Health worked for eight years and helped establish a dysplasia clinic and ongoing screening center for the women in the area.

For more information about supporting Grounds for Health – including information about the Specialty Coffee Auction that raised over $100,000 for the organization last winter – visit the Grounds for Health web site at

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