ONE Campus Interviews Rice Love Co-Founder Corbin Thomander

This blog was written in a collaboration with ONE Campus, an international advocacy non-profit working to end extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

Alert! Another awesome brand: Rice Love

ONE Campus knows that as college students, you’re looking for ways to express yourselves on behalf of the causes and issues you’re passionate about. Rice Love’s motto is simple: “Buy a bag, feed a family.” Their main product is a beautiful line of strapped bags made of recycled rice sacks that are perfect for a day trip, a gift, or for carrying books around campus.

To learn more about Rice Love, their products, and the people they impact, ONE Campus interviewed Rice Love’s founder Corbin Thomander. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Why did you start this, what inspired you to take on this big project? How did you get the idea?

About five years ago, I met Coney, a college student from India. His vision was to get educated in the United States and return to India to do good in his country. One day I shared an idea with him: What if we buy a bag of rice in India, give away the rice to a family in need, and then repurpose the remaining burlap bag into a tote bag and sell it to pay for the cause. He loved it and we began working on it.

With this idea I really wanted to address two things: 1) making sure that the purchasers of the bags could see that rice was being delivered and 2) I wanted to tackle hunger.

Why rice? 

To us at Rice Love in Hawaii and for many Asian cultures, rice represents life. More than half the world’s population —3.5 billion—people eat rice every day. With 800 million people undernourished in the world, and 200 million of them in India (more than any other country in the world), we have an opportunity to address hunger in India. We recognize that rice is not the only requirement for a healthy diet, so we occasionally supplement other needed foods.

How does Rice Love choose which family to give rice to? What does that process look like?

We look for families who need temporary assistance due to sickness or job loss, because it is during these tough times that many fall apart. We try to catch the families before that happens, in order to keep them together, and to give their kids hope for a better future. We visit them, take their photo, and ask them to share their story. You can “meet” the families by following our Instagram account: Then, we ask the families for referrals. Inevitably, we receive plenty of referrals.

Can you explain your business model a bit?

We quickly found out that we could not afford to give away a full bag of rice, repurpose the bag, sell it, and cover our costs. We were going to give one pound of rice for every bag sold and after crunching some numbers we settled on giving one kilogram of rice, which equates to 2.2 pounds. We also like using kilograms because it is a unit of measurement more easily understood around the world. One kilogram provides 12 meals. For a family of four, that is three meals a day. We give 25 kilograms of rice at a time to each family, which lasts a typical family about a month.

We have a team in India who delivers rice to new families every month. Our giving is performed on a regular basis. We plan to be delivering five days a week.

We show our customers proof of giving. Every bag comes with a tag number that links the customer to a photo and story of the family they helped feed.

As you know, ONE is an organization focused on ending extreme poverty. Do you feel that Rice Love is contributing to that effort?

Yes. Rice Love is fighting extreme poverty. We are just getting started. When I am in India, it is very clear that there is more work to do than any one organization can handle. Our goal is to give 1 million kilograms of rice by the end of 2020. This is huge to us, and the people who receive the help, but it is not big enough to fix the problem. However, I am confident that with many people and organizations working together, we can bring about massive change…and even end world hunger. We are thankful and inspired by organizations like ONE who have taken on the mission to fight extreme poverty. We are honored to join them in the fight.

Tell me about the families and delivering the rice.

Meeting the families we give to is amazing! Walking into these Indian neighborhoods is incredibly unique and beautiful. The people, the colors, the foods, the things you don’t get to see anywhere else in the world. There are people in the neighborhood who need help, and we explain that we are giving them a month of quality rice as a temporary support. We show them the bags we’re wearing and explain 25 people around the world will be buying 25 bags, and a portion of each of those purchases will pay for the rice that is being given to them.

Want to know more about Rice Love? Follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Meet the families who are impacted through Rice Love products here.

And a special offer to ONE Campus readers, use the offer code “ONECampus” at check out and receive a 20% discount before shipping and handling.

ONE welcomes the contributions of guest organizations on the blog but does not necessarily endorse the views, programs, or organizations highlighted.