While consumer demand for information about where our food comes from and how it’s grown is increasing, thus far there has been relatively little interest in the people that actually harvest it. Commonly used labels such as ”natural,” “free range,” “genetically engineered,” “heirloom,” “organic” and “local,” indicate nothing about how the farmworkers who pick these foods are treated, which is not great.
But brands and retailers should take notice – it is only a matter of time before socially conscious eaters in the United States begin demanding information about farmworker conditions.
The grassroots groundswell has already begun. The foundation arm of Bon Appétit Management Company, which operates more than 400 cafés for companies including Twitter, Yahoo! and eBay, is already working to educate businesses and consumers of the issues and opportunities to change the status quo through TEDxFruitvale.
While not perfect, many eaters look for a “fair trade” label when purchasing coffee and chocolate products. The new Food Justice Certification, a third party certification for social justice in agricultural and food jobs from the Domestic Fair Trade Association, has yet to make it mainstream, but certainly foreshadows what’s to come.
“It creates a point of comparison for the rest of the food system,” writes Grist Food Editor Twilight Greenway of the new Certification. “We live in a time when consumers don’t have to dig too hard to find examples of really terrible farm labor practices. From documented cases of slavery and other human rights abuses in Florida’s tomato fields, to workers dying from heat exhaustion on California farms, and new data about the plight of women on farms and people of color in the food system at large, the national picture is pretty grim.”
How can we change the system and stop these injustices? Transform the grocery industry, says award-winning documentary film maker Sanjay Rawal.
Rawal’s latest film project Food Chain, explores labor practices within the United States agriculture sector and how the role the policies of large buyers, particularly supermarkets, play in perpetuating these practices. The Food Chain Team have collected over 400 hours of interviews with farmworkers, as well as with food justice thought-leaders such as Eric Schlosser, Bobby Kennedy Jr., Dolores Huerta, Barry Estabrook, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and the UFW.
Now, they are trying to raise post-production funds through Kickstarter to turn their footage into a 70-80 minute film. If you like the short, yet illuminating clip below, you can support the project here.