As part of Food Week of Action, today we are celebrating with farmworkers in vermont and as we recognise the huge milestone that was reached in the food and farming world earlier this month.
On Tuesday October 3, farmworker leaders from Migrant Justice and the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s jointly signed the Milk with Dignity agreement. The legally-binding contract establishes Ben & Jerry’s as the first company in the dairy industry to implement the worker-driven human rights program. This momentous occasion marks the beginning of a new day for dairy, one that provides economic relief and support to struggling farm owners, in the form of a premium paid by Ben & Jerry’s, while ensuring dignity and respect for farmworkers.
Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique “Kike” Balcazar spoke to those assembled before he signed the agreement himself to mark the historic moment:
“This is an historic moment for dairy workers. We have worked tirelessly to get here, and now we move forward towards a new day for the industry. We appreciate Ben & Jerry’s leadership role and look forward to working together to implement a program that ensures dignified housing and fair working conditions on dairy farms across the region. And though this is the first, it won’t be the last agreement of its kind.”
As part of Food Week of Action, the Presbyterian mission, sponsors of the week, bring us a message of climate justice today.
God created the earth, and it is sacred. As Psalm 24:1 proclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it.” Therefore we are called to stewardship of the earth. When we work to protect creation, we are answering God’s call to till and keep the garden (Genesis 2:15). In the face of deepening ecological crises caused by the earth’s warming, our call to act as earth’s caretakers takes on more meaning. Our efforts will curtail the shrinking of sacred waters, the endangerment of living creatures of every kind, and the vulnerability of our brothers and sisters in developing countries.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has identified food, transportation, and energy as the three key personal areas that need action to help stem climate change. The Presbyterian mission have created a resource to educate the public about the actions that they can take personally to protect against the worst effects of climate change.
The advice given is simple and has an aspect of theological reflection, and if undertaken on a large scale has the potential to affect great change. They include measures such as eating local food, organic or sustainable food, eating less meat, and a reduction in personal consumption. If you want to get more involved in the climate justice movement and take part in the creation of resilient communities that support people and the environment check out Our Power campaign to see what is happening in your area and how you can get involved.
As part of today’s Food Week action, support farmworkers by delivering a manager’s letter to a Wendy’s near you.
Dear Wendy’s Manager,
As a Wendy’s consumer and supporter of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) groundbreaking Fair Food Program, I urge Wendy’s to join with the CIW and the Florida tomato industry as they work to eliminate the forced labor, poverty wages and other human rights abuses historically faced by Florida farmworkers who harvest your tomatoes.
For decades, Florida’s farmworkers endured poverty wages and daily violations of their basic rights in order to harvest the food on our plates:
• Stagnant, sub-poverty wages: Florida tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece. The prevailing piece rate today is 50 cents for every 32-lbs of tomatoes a worker picks, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1980. As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick nearly 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday. Most farmworkers today earn less than $12,000 a year.
• Absence of fundamental labor rights: Florida farmworkers have no right to overtime pay, no benefits and no right to organize in order to improve these conditions.
• Modern-day slavery: In the most extreme cases, workers have been forced to labor against their will through the use or threat of physical violence.
The good news is that a new day has dawned in the fields. The Fair Food Program, an historic partnership among farmworkers, tomato growers, and eleven leading food corporations is building a new tomato industry that advances the human rights and dignity of farmworkers while strengthening the sustainability of the entire industry. By joining the Fair Food Program, corporations require more humane working conditions from their Florida tomato suppliers, pay a small premium to help support those improved conditions, and commit to purchase exclusively from growers who meet the Program’s higher standards. These commitments are monitored and audited by the Fair Food Standards Council, a nonprofit third party organization, to ensure accountability and transparency.
Of the five largest fast food corporations in the country — McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell (Yum! Brands), and Wendy’s — Wendy’s is the only one not participating in the Fair Food Program. Sustainable restaurant leader Chipotle Mexican Grill also participates.
Wendy’s has responded to consumers’ calls to join the Fair Food Program by saying “[W]e pay a premium to our tomato suppliers in Florida, and expect them to take care of their employees. All of our Florida tomato suppliers participate in the Fair Food Program.”
The truth is, whatever premium Wendy’s may be paying is not the Fair Food Premium, it is not being monitored by the Fair Foods Standards Council, and it is not going to address farmworkers’ grinding poverty. Wendy’s statement that its suppliers belong to the Fair Food Program is both unverifiable and meaningless because Wendy’s, unlike its competitors in the Fair Food Program, does not have to, and does not, tell anyone who its tomato suppliers are. Nor does Wendy’s have to suspend its purchases from any participating grower found out of compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct. These are the dual linchpins that give the Program its teeth, and Wendy’s simply is not doing its part.
The Fair Food Program is a proven model, recognized by both the White House and the United Nations, that offers Wendy’s a tremendous opportunity to become, without incurring any competitive disadvantage, part of the human rights advances in Florida’s fields.
As a Wendy’s consumer, I look forward to your company working with the CIW and with Florida’s tomato growers through the Fair Food Program to ensure human rights for Florida farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes used in your restaurants.
For more information, please contact the CIW at 239-657-8311 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can download, a copy of this letter to print and mail HERE.
Today is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the theme this year is: A path towards peaceful and inclusive societies. Todays call to action recognizes the importance of reaching out the the poorest throughout the world. As a global society, we are only as rich as our poorest member and we all prosper when those at the bottom succeed. Almost a billion people live in extreme poverty, this year’s theme reminds us of the importance of the values of dignity, solidarity for all people.
Today is world food day and the second day of Food Week of Action. World food day was established in 1945 on the anniversary of the launch of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Celebrated on the 16th of October each year, the purpose is to raise awareness of hunger and poverty and to inspire ideas for change, the ultimate goal is zero hunger. The FAO gives 8 reasons why we should all do what we can to achieve zero hunger:
The UN designated October 15th as international day of rural women in recognition of the crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing. Rural women play an invaluable and significant role in food security, resource stewardship and and environmental sustainability. Although women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, in addition to the bulk to unpaid domestic and care work, women and girls in rural areas suffer more extreme levels of poverty. They also face gender related barriers to exiting poverty due to difficulties accessing credit, land and other essentials.
“Globally, with few exceptions, every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women, and that they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion and the effects of climate change.” – .un.org
The focus of International Day for Rural Women 2017 is: “Challenges and opportunities in climate-resilient agriculture for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.” Rural women and girls are disproportionately affected by by climate change events and conditions including access to natural resources and the consequences of climate change can often reinforce and intensify existing gender inequalities.
When women succeed, all aspects of society improve as a result. They play a key role in building community resilience and responding to climate-related disasters. They tend to make decisions about resource use and investments in the interest and welfare of their children, families and communities. When women are empowered to act as both economic and political actors, they influence policy decisions in the direction of provision of a public good and access to social infrastructure. All of these are crucial for peaceful societies that be resilient in the face of disaster.
Today also marks the beginning of Food Week of Action, presented by the Presbyterian Hunger Programme – this year we are proud co-sponsors! Every day this week has a theme or action that you can take to make a real change in the world.
To read more about this year’s celebration at UN Women click HERE.