Our VoiceHealth & Environment

Eating with a Conscience

Carlos Rich • Jan 26, 2010

Ever since I moved to the US I have really enjoyed going out to eat with my family and friends. I’ve been to many unique, fine and also hole-in-the-wall restaurants. In the past year however I cut down on how much I eat out and I’m becoming more conscience of my food purchases. It’s really hard since I live in a small town and my choices are limited. When I travel and have more options, I try to look for locally owned establishments or places that are recommended to me. Often, I make an effort to ask the wait staff if they know where the food comes from. If I know that the meat comes from a place that mistreats worker, then I do not order meat. As my friend says, “it’s hard to eat when you have a conscience.”

Just last week I was in New York at a gathering of food industry organizers and workers, including representatives and workers from the meat industry. Meat packing jobs are mostly held by immigrant, refugees and workers of color, who still face many challenges such as discrimination and low wages. The same issues are faced by restaurant and field workers across America who pick our fruits and vegetables. The goal in bringing together workers from all across the food chain was to protect and promote worker place safety, fair wages and promote justice, so that we can continue to improve the safety and quality of our food.

One of the groups at the table was the Restaurant Opportunity Centers (ROC). This is an organization that represents the workers in restaurants industries, and is both unique and inspirational to many. With the help of ROC, workers were inspired to open a restaurant in New York, which became a model in places like Maine, Chicago and New Orleans. This restaurant was open by a group of worker who were left without jobs after 9/11. COLORS is ROC’s first worker-owned cooperative restaurant. COLORS opens its doors to many workers who find themselves in now familiar situation in this economy, without a job.

Not only this is a wonderful place that serves as training facility for those who are interested in working in this industry, but their food and service is top notch and reasonably priced. They have trained bartenders, cooks and wait staff, which have either stayed there or found jobs elsewhere. My wish is that this could become a model for all workers in the all the food industry so they may be treated and compensated fairly.

If you are like me and have an appreciation of great food and good ambiance, and want to support or believe workers should have a bigger and better stake in this industry, then check out COLORS in New York.

It’s a whole new way to eat.

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