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New Industry Scholarship Will Support Black Students/Graduates

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The newly-formed Organic & Natural Health Scholarship Fund will open more opportunities in the industry for students and graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU).To this end, the Organic & Natural Health Association has formed a partnership with the Williams-Franklin Foundation to help raise a minimum of $50,000 for the Williams-Franklin Foundation during the next five years. Funds will support education expenses for HBCU students.


The Organic & Natural Health Association, a leader in diversity and inclusion initiatives within the natural products industry, has also committed to support networking opportunities for HBCU students, graduates and natural health executives. These opportunities are designed to ignite internships and career opportunities, while helping to create a more diverse and inclusive industry. The new fund was announced at the association’s annual conference held virtually Jan. 27-28.

“This is an Organic & Natural Health initiative, but it’s not ours to own,” said Karen Howard, executive director of Organic & Natural Health. “We want to make this an industry-wide initiative for diversity and inclusion, and we want it to be as big and as noteworthy as what Vitamin Angels has achieved for dietary supplement distribution to countries in need. Exposure to our industry is the biggest barrier to lack of diversification in our organizations. Together, as an industry, we can proactively work to change this dynamic.”

The Williams-Franklin Foundation is a 501(c) 3 incorporated nonprofit that provides academic scholarships, business/career networking, and mentoring opportunities to HBCU students with extreme financial need. Led by husband and wife team, Dwight and LaShelle (Williams) Franklin, both HBCU graduates who used their own seed money to launch the foundation in 2014. In a short time their organization has raised thousands of dollars that have impacted the lives of many HBCU students.

“Karen’s initiative and leadership with introducing Williams-Franklin Foundation is really valuable, because our ultimate goal is to help students graduate with minimum debt and maximum opportunities,” said Dwight Franklin. “We are looking forward to this partnership and providing our students opportunities to succeed within the natural products industry,” added LaShelle (Williams) Franklin.



Leaders and companies within the natural products industry who want to donate a tax-deductible gift directly to the Williams-Franklin Foundation’s Organic & Natural Health Scholarship Fund can select “Organic & Natural Health Fund” in the drop box when donating at:

Other topics on diversity and inclusion covered at the recent Organic & Natural Health conference included strategies for a more inclusive workplace with Brian Terry of Nordic Naturals and Kantha Shelke of Corvus Blue. The conference also addressed, with Organic & Natural Health’s scientific advisers, the COVID-19 experience from what happens after the vaccine with Dr. Michael Murray, to research and takeaways on immune health with James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., as well as firsthand experiences from the frontline with Dr. Ken Redcross. Also featured were a panel of consumers of diverse ages and backgrounds who shared their own personal experiences with COVID-19, including what dietary supplements they used before, during and after contracting the virus, as well as other pitfalls of prevention they encountered.

“This is important information for our supply chain members to hear so they can meet and serve the consumers where they are at currently in the fight against COVID,” said Howard. “We have also committed to continue our vitamin D consumer education campaign called, ‘Get On My Level,’ that has, to date, garnered more than 60 million media impressions.”

The conference concluded with a panel discussing politics led by thought leaders tackling the challenges of old-line partisan and biased perspectives in a new administration. Carrie Balkcom of American Grassfed Association, Charlie Brown of Mercury Free Dentistry, Ronnie Cummis of Organic Consumers Association, Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides, Alan Lewis of Natural Grocers and Todd Harrison of Venable, LLP, had an animated conversation around creating new pathways and partnership through agriculture, environmental and state-based concerns to advocate for policies that lead to a healthier planet and population.

To get involved with Organic & Natural Health’s initiatives, visit:

Warren Thayer

Warren Thayer

Warren is the Editorial Director & Managing Partner for Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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