Lost in the flood: Two great stories on the FFP get left behind in deluge of big news…

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With all the recent news surrounding the Clinton Global Citizen Award and the fast-approaching release of “Food Chains,” some stories just get lost in the flood.  However, two such stories from recent days were too good leave behind forever, so we thought we’d take advantage of this brief break in the action to reach back a couple of weeks and share them with you today.

First up is a beautifully written reflection by the Editor of the Sarasota Magazine that brought you last month’s must-read article, “Fairness in the Fields: A Sarasota Organization Brings Hope and Justice to Florida’s Tomato Fields”.  The Editor’s piece is part of her monthly “From the Editor” series, previewing what the reader will find in the monthly’s latest edition and adding her thoughts on the topic at hand.  This time she chose to focus on the story chronicling the Fair Food Program, and her thoughts are well worth reading.  Her column begins:

edPeople are monsters. Selfish, brutal and merciless. And people are heroes. Generous, courageous and just. And that, I’ve come to believe, is as true for every individual as for the species itself. Of course, anyone who follows the news or spends some time with a few kids under 6 (can you guess that my three grandsons are visiting?) has already figured this out. But after reading Phillippe Diederich’s “Fairness in the Fields” in this issue, I’ve been puzzling more than ever over the mysterious dichotomies of the human heart.

Phil’s story is about Sarasota’s Fair Foods Standards Council (FFSC), which occupies a corner office in our building. I didn’t know that—or much else about the four-year-old nonprofit—until recently. And I should have, because the FFSC is the triumphant result of one of the most lopsided battles in American agricultural history: the struggle of a small group of Florida tomato pickers, known as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, against some of the most powerful corporations on earth. For generations, all across Florida—including in fields close to our elegant coastal city—these workers toiled in conditions that recall pre-Civil War plantations, right down to swaggering overseers who cheated and brutalized them with impunity. For two decades, they fought not only for a modest wage increase, funded by a penny more a pound for tomatoes, but for such basic decencies as clean drinking water and protection from abuse. After their struggle seized the conscience of the nation, some food chains and Florida growers agreed to the penny per pound increase and a humane code of conduct in the fields; and the FFSC was created as an independent auditor to make sure the rules were followed…

And it concludes:

… There are plenty of heroes and villains in this story, and plenty of lessons, too. Simple fairness and social justice are anything but simple; people can find every sort of reason not to change the status quo, especially when money is involved; many of us are not our brothers’ keepers; and absolute power does indeed corrupt. But dark as the human soul can be, the story also shows that sometimes we can and do fight towards the light. Those workers, and all who have supported them, prove that we have the power to repair and remake our world.

Do yourself a favor and read what comes between the beginning and end.  It’s really very good stuff.  You can find the column in its entirety here.

The second piece is an interview with Food Chains director Sanjay Rawal in the Grace Communications Foundation’s ecocentric blog.  The interview, entitled “Heroic Endeavor: Sanjay Rawal’s New Film, Food Chains,” is a thought provoking piece that is touches on a wide range of topics.  Here’s an excerpt:


Why do you think Publix has managed to hold out for so long? Do you think they’ll eventually sign?

Publix is a prototype of a modern-day plantation. The surface is shiny and everyone seems to be happy. But look deeper (in this case, look down the supply chain) and a far different reality emerges. Publix claims that the problems of farmworkers are not theirs. As stores become monolithic like Publix, Kroger or Wal-mart, they have an unreasonable effect on their suppliers and those suppliers’ workers. Supermarkets have wielded this massive power to drive down prices for consumers, true, but only because they drive down the price they’ll accept from farmers. Farmers, then, have no choice but to cut costs where they can, like labor. Farmworker wages have been effectively stagnant for decades. And even as consumers and local religious leaders beg Publix to make a small change and support the CIW, they refuse to do so because in their minds, they aren’t breaking any laws. This sounds like the type of argument a plantation owner in the South would make in the absence of a law like, let’s say, the 13th Amendment.

Morality can, in some cases, trump legality. And while there were brave Southerners who supported abolition there, too, are corporations that support programs like the Fair Food Program. Publix isn’t one of them.

Told you it was thought provoking…

So, now that you are caught up on the latest Fair Food Program press, it’s on to New York this weekend, where a contingent of 10 CIW members will be joining the huge People’s Climate March on Sunday afternoon before heading inside for the Clinton Global Citizen Award ceremony later that night!  It’s going to be a big weekend in the Big Apple, so check back soon for all the photos, news, and first-hand reports.


From the director’s chair: An update on the film “Food Chains”…

  See how you can organize to bring the film to your city, school, or place of worship this fall! As many readers of this site already know, the documentary Food Chains, which chronicles the CIW’s battle for Fair Food and the issue of farm labor exploitation around the country, will be opening in theaters nationwide on November 21st.  What does that mean, exactly?  Will you be able to go to your local cineplex to see Food Chains?  Will it be available on cable and iTunes and other digital media? We asked Food Chains director Sanjay Rawal to give us a brief […]

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Clinton Global Citizen award makes the headlines…

From Food Chains director Sanjay Rawal, in the Ft. Myers News-Press: “It begs this question of companies like Publix, Ahold, Kroger and Wendy’s: When hundreds of CEOs, heads of state and thought leaders are gathered to [honor the CIW and the Fair Food Program], why are you so stubbornly against progress in America’s fields?” News of the Clinton Global Initiative’s selection of the CIW to receive the 2014 Global Citizen Award — to be presented this coming Sunday at a gala ceremony in New York City — made the headlines far and wide this past weekend.  Media outlets from the Hollywood […]

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BREAKING: CIW to receive 2014 Clinton Global Citizen Award!

Clintons to honor CIW for groundbreaking impact of Fair Food Program at gala award ceremony in New York City on September 21… The news was announced on the Clinton Global Initiative website Thursday afternoon: Clinton Global Citizen Awards Established in 2007, the Clinton Global Citizen Awards embody President Bill Clinton’s call to action by honoring outstanding individuals who exemplify global citizenship through their vision and leadership. These citizens have proven that diverse sectors of society can work together successfully to devise solutions that effect positive, lasting social change. Nominated by Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) members and other global leaders, honorees are […]

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“I believe that we will win!” Youth gather in Immokalee for 2014 Encuentro…

  Boot the Braids, Food Chains documentary make #Encuentro2014 a smashing success… This past weekend, 70 students and youth from across the United States rolled into Immokalee for the Student / Farmworker Alliance’s annual Encuentro.  As always, these young leaders came to learn about the fifteen-year history of students and youth taking action with Florida farmworkers, and to write their own chapter in that extraordinary history by laying the groundwork for the season to come in the Campaign for Fair Food. Throughout the weekend, SFA’s core Fair Food activists dove headfirst into workshops, discussion groups, strategy sessions, and even a CIW theater piece, […]

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Better late than never… A Labor Day action report from the Publix AND Wendy’s fronts!

After a relatively quiet summer — punctuated, of course, by some great protests around the country — the Fair Food Nation marked the end of the season with two gorgeous, creative actions for Labor Day (yes, we know Labor Day was last weekend, but we had a busy week this past week!).  Instead of heading to the beach, farmworkers and allies packed their cars with brightly colored artwork and bullhorns, determined to celebrate the true meaning of Labor Day by recognizing the invaluable contribution of the men and women who work hard every day to put food on our tables.  Here in Florida, they gathered in Tampa for a […]

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Entertainment Weekly gives “Food Chains” a plug, runs exciting new trailer!

  Countdown begins to big Thanksgiving Week release… Entertainment Weekly ran a piece yesterday in its “Inside Movies” column plugging the documentary “Food Chains” — the film featuring the Campaign for Fair Food as a long-sought solution to the exploitation and abuse of this country’s farmworkers — highlighting the stars who contributed to the film, and reminding readers of its fast-approaching Thanksgiving Week release date.   Here’s the report, entitled “Eva Longoria explores ‘Food Chains’ in new documentary from ‘Fast Food Nation’ writer,”: As executive producer Eva Longoria points out in her new documentary Food Chains, the hands that sort much […]

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Gone, but never to be forgotten…

Bishop John Nevins has passed away, but his commitment to social justice and to the struggle of farmworkers in Immokalee will stand as an example for religious leaders for generations to come.   He marched with us. He called on growers to join in dialogue with us. He called on corporations to sign Fair Food agreements with us. And when six CIW members broke their 30-day hunger strike in 1997, he held a mass in Naples to celebrate their courageous stand and broke the fast with us. The first food the hunger strikers ate after 30 days was the host […]

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The spotlight shines on the Fair Food Standards Council in must-read piece in Sarasota Magazine!

photos: Sarasota Magazine Beau McHan, Harvest Manager, Pacific Tomato Growers on the FFSC auditors: “They’re extremely thorough.  Other auditors or inspectors might just poke their heads in, but these guys talk to pretty much every worker. Then they check their records with our office.” In a must-read, well-written, wide-ranging article published in this month’s issue of Sarasota Magazine, entitled “Fairness in the Fields: A Sarasota Organization Brings Hope and Justice to Florida’s Tomato Fields,” freelance journalist Philippe Diederich takes a close look at the Fair Food Standards Council, the third party monitoring body for the Fair Food Program, and comes away impressed. […]

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Boot the Braids!… Student-led Wendy’s campaign set to hit the road running this coming school year!

With the annual Student/Farmworker Alliance “Encuentro” just around the corner, student and youth leaders of the Fair Food Nation train their sights on Wendy’s with an echo of the seminal “Boot the Bell” campus-based movement…  It’s that time of year again, as the first cool breezes of fall break months of summer heat and students across the country prepare for the new school year ahead.  Of course, in Immokalee, preparing for the new school year can only mean one thing: the Student/Farmworker Alliance Encuentro is coming!  Every year at this time, dozens of students and young people from New York […]

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Ohio Freedom School scholars take up the Fair Food banner!

40+ youth march through streets of Columbus to local Wendy’s, are barred from entering store… From the Tour de Fair Food in Denver earlier this month to July’s convergence of young food justice leaders in Albuquerque, young consumers across the country have taken to the streets this summer to send a message to Wendy’s: We care about poverty and exploitation behind the food we eat, and we won’t eat at Wendy’s until the hamburger giant does its part to support the CIW’s Fair Food Program. Not to be outdone, a group of young people in Columbus, Ohio, brought their own creativity and energy to the Campaign for Fair Food last month, and from the […]

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Northern sojourn builds CIW bonds with Maine small farmers, Vermont dairy workers…

Visit carves out paths for expansion of Fair Food principles on two new fronts! Maine has been dubbed “The Vacation State,” and with good reason.  During at least one month of the year, there is probably nowhere in this country more beautiful than Maine, with its abundant fresh water ponds and lakes perfect for swimming, miles and miles of dramatic coastline, sprawling old growth forests, and rolling landscape of wild blueberry-covered hills dotted with ancient boulders. So leave it to the CIW to turn a visit to Maine in August into a work trip…  During a six-day sojourn in Maine and Vermont […]

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“Food Chains” private screenings in San Francisco, LA pack the house with food movement, farmworker organizing luminaries!

San Francisco press calls film an “incredibly moving documentary”; Dolores Huerta pledges to “joyfully promote the film and the Fair Food campaign”!… Last week was a busy one on the “Food Chains” calendar!  With two invitation-only screenings in California, the “Food Chains” road crew continued to marshal support for the first feature film to take a close look at the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food and the groundbreaking Fair Food Program ahead of its big Nov. 21st theatrical release.  First up, San Francisco.  “Food Chains” director Sanjay Rawal reports from the scene: On Tuesday evening, chef Alice Waters, journalist Davia Nelson and documentary filmmaker James Redford […]

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“Tour de Fair Food” rocks Wendy’s in Denver!

Denver Fair Food does it again with another wildly creative protest, this time demanding that Wendy’s stop stalling and join the Fair Food Program… Last week the streets of Denver were filled with ponytailed, red-haired bikers on a circuit ride for justice, as members of the city’s incredible Denver Fair Food crew toured Wendy’s restaurants in downtown Denver and called for the hamburger giant to stop standing in the way of progress and do its part to end farmworker exploitation by joining the CIW’s Fair Food Program: Creativity has long been a hallmark of the Campaign for Fair Food, from the […]

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100 youth leaders from national food movement march on Wendy’s in Albuquerque, NM!

Rooted in Community (RIC) makes Wendy’s a stop on its annual Youth Summit march! Rooted in Community (RIC) is a national network of young food movement leaders that empowers youth across the country to take up leadership in the struggle to change unjust food systems.  A highlight of RIC’s work is the annual Youth Summit, an eagerly anticipated national gathering which took place in Albuquerque this year and was, as always, a high-energy weekend, filled with field trips to local indigenous reservations, workshops on different gardening methods, and conversations on food accessibility and food supply chains. Also this year, the CIW and the Student/Farmworker Alliance […]

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“Food Chains” private screening in NYC brings out a VIP crowd…

Screening recruits powerful new allies in the fight for Fair Food! These past few weeks, while millions of Americans have been hitting the beaches or heading to the hills to escape the mid-summer heat, the intrepid film crew from the documentary “Food Chains” has been criss-crossing the country as part of the long promotional campaign ahead of the film’s big November release.   Their tour brought them to New York City this past Tuesday for an invitation-only showing of the film at the Bryant Park Hotel screening room in midtown Manhattan attended by a VIP crowd of Oscar-nominated filmmakers, representatives of leading philanthropical foundations, […]

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