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Media Round-up: The Fresh Market agreement makes some noise!

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Given the pace of things in the Campaign for Fair Food these days, the announcement earlier this month of the CIW’s agreement with Fresh Market (the 13th agreement in the ever-expanding Fair Food Program) seems almost like ancient history.  

Much has happened in the two weeks since we broke the news of the Fresh Market agreement, including the launch of the new Alliance for Fair Food and the call to action for the big spring Parade and Concert for Fair Food.  But that doesn’t mean that the agreement, and its important new provisions designed to reinforce the structural sustainability of the Fair Food Program for years to come, escaped the notice of the media.  

So, in the interest of not allowing all the great coverage to fall through the cracks, we bring you the long-overdue media round-up for the Fresh Market agreement!  We begin with a story by our hometown Ft. Myers News-Press (“Fresh Market, Coalition of Immokalee Workers join forces,” 1/9/15).  Here’s an excerpt:

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… The North Carolina-based grocery chain, which has 168 stores in cities including Bonita Springs, Fort Myers and Naples, is the 13th corporation to sign on to the agreement, following Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Whole Foods and other major food providers.

Fresh Market, however, went further than the other corporations have by agreeing to increase its tomato buys by 15 percent year-over-year from the 90 percent of Florida growers participating in the Fair Food Program. The move rewards those who improve labor conditions with increased market share.

“The FFP is pioneering a new form of social responsibility,” said the coalition’s Guadalupe Gonzalo, “one in which we as workers ourselves take a leading role in protecting our own rights in the fields. … (and) this agreement truly takes the Fair Food Program to a new level…” read more

Next up is the produce industry journal, The Packer (“The Fresh Market joins Coalition of Immokalee Workers,” 1/13/15):

packerThe Fresh Market Inc., is the latest retail chain to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers supporting the labor group’s Fair Food agreement.

In addition to supporting the program’s auditing of farm labor conditions, the Greensboro, N.C.-based The Fresh Market’s national partnership with the Immokalee, Fla.-based CIW includes agreeing to increase Florida tomato purchases.

Beginning with the 2015-16 season, The Fresh Market plans to expand purchasing by 15% a year from Florida tomato growers participating in the program, according to a news release.

The agreement represents a “new precedent” that rewards increased market share to growers that make significant investments to improve farm labor conditions, according to the release.

The chain also plans to make annual donations to support the Fair Food Standards Council, the program’s third-party monitoring organization that audits farms for program compliance and investigates and resolves worker complaints, according to the release… read more 

Not to be outdone, the supermarket industry journal, Supermarket News, weighed in on the agreement as well (“Fresh Market commits to tomato pickers’ rights with new deal,” 1/8/15):

supermarketnews“We are pleased to enter into this partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and to be a part of the Fair Food Program,” Lee Arthur, The Fresh Market’s merchandising VP — produce, floral and gift center, said in a statement. “We continuously look for ways to source the best products, and being a part of the FFP helps us to know we are sourcing from growers whose practices are fair and socially responsible. This allows us to provide our customers with food they can feel good about purchasing and enjoy sharing with friends and family…” read more

The Miami New Times took a slightly deeper cut at the news (which was also picked up in the food movement blog Civil Eats), “Fresh Market agrees to step up for farmworkers,” 1/8/15).  Here’s an excerpt:

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“For consumers, when they buy tomatoes at a participating Fair Food Program retailer, it means they can be sure the tomatoes were picked by workers whose human rights are protected by what labor experts have called ‘the best workplace-monitoring program in the U.S. today,'” Asbed [CIW] explains.

“Indeed, the FFP is a worker-driven social responsibility program, which means it is a novel approach to defending human rights designed, monitored, and enforced by the very workers whose rights it is intended to protect. The FFP is a 21st-century social responsibility program for the 21st-century supermarket. This is particularly important today in the wake of last month’s LA Times investigative series that discovered truly disturbing labor conditions in Mexico’s fields, with rampant child labor, debt servitude, and humiliating working and living conditions. Consumers looking to support modern labor rights now have a clear choice.”

Other companies that are part of the FFP include Chipotle, Aramark, McDonald’s, and Burger King. Publix has not opted into the FFP, and the CIW has been leading protests against the supermarket chain for years.

Up next for the CIW is a plan to expand the FFP to crops beyond tomatoes and to states besides Florida.

“By this summer, the program should be in the initial stages of implementation in at least one other crop and in states along the Eastern seaboard, where Florida-based farms grow tomatoes during the summer season,” Asbed says… read more

And we wrap up our media round-up with a sample of the reaction from the Fair Food Nation itself, where news of the agreement sparked a powerful reaction.  For a little taste, here is a piece from our longtime friends and allies at the Presbyterian Church U.S.A (“Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) applauds new Fair Food Program partnership,” 1/9/15):

pcusa-logo“We pray that this new partnership will help motivate Wendy’s and Publix Super Markets  to join with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in improving the lives of farm workers,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “The Fair Food Program is good for all parties involved, and the success of the program is obvious when I listened to workers this past year describing how they are actively protecting their rights.”

The CIW, with more than 4,500 farmworker members, is a PC(USA) mission partner. Presbyterians have worked with CIW from the beginning of the Campaign for Fair Food when farmworkers spoke out about the physical and sexual abuse, extreme low wages and poor living conditions.

Thousands of Presbyterians have supported the coalition by participating in marches and prayer vigils, sending letters and post cards to executives and meeting with managers of local grocery stores and restaurants.

“It is exciting how this agreement raises the bar still higher with Fresh Market committing to purchase 15 percent more Fair Food tomatoes each year and to financially contribute toward monitoring the Fair Food standards,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate with the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “To the farmworkers who have organized for so many years, on behalf of Presbyterians across the country supporting the CIW, we celebrate with you…”  read more

There were many more articles on the landmark agreement (here are links to a few if you’re looking for more: WMNF Tampa radio, the Progressive Grocer, and the Orlando Sentinel), but we were eager to quickly share at least a sampling of the coverage directly here on the site.

That’s it for now, but be sure to check back soon for much more from the Campaign for Fair Food as we begin to ramp up toward the big spring action this March 21st!

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