Today, across the country, food justice advocates and organizations are celebrating Food Day. In its third year, the day serves as an opportunity for consumers to take a moment and think consciously about the food they eat and how it got to their table.
Perhaps the most important, but most often overlooked element standing between the consumer and their food is the food worker. From toiling away on farms picking fruits and vegetables to packaging meat in slaughter houses, workers who process, ship, grow, and serve food every day often suffer from deplorable working conditions, employer intimidation and abuse, wage theft, denied restroom breaks, sexual harassment – and in some cases, assault – among other atrocities.
For the last twenty years, the Florida-based Coalition for Immokalee Workers has been actively working to improve the lives and conditions of farmworkers through hunger strikes, holding corporations accountable for their business practices, and community organizing.
Last week the human rights group was awarded the Freedom From Want Award, as part of the Four Freedoms Awards by the Roosevelt Institute for its Fair Food Program (FFP). The program is “a groundbreaking model for social responsibility based on a unique partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and participating buyers.” Since its inception in 2010, FFP has “created a sustainable blueprint for worker-driven corporate social responsibility, winning fairer wages; work with dignity; and freedom from forced labor, sexual harassment, and violence in the workplace for nearly 100,000 workers.”
There are other organizations, such as the Food Chain Workers Alliance, which the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a member of, that works “to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food.”
As important as it is for us as consumers to engage in healthy food habits, whether that’s eating organic or avoiding refined sugar, it is infinitely more important that we make the wellbeing of food and farm workers our first priority. In celebrating Food Day, as we potentially commit ourselves to choosing the salad over fries, we must also honor those who handle our food, process, and package it. We must support organizations like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Food Chain Workers Alliance to ensure that those most vulnerable within the food system receive the most basic rights like restroom breaks and at least a living wage to afford the food they work so hard to produce, and more.
For more information on Food Day events in your area, visit here.