Lost in the Flood…


A truly insightful reflection and two great videos from the Fast for Fair Food…

The Fast for Fair Food generated such a flood of unforgettable coverage — both by the traditional media and by the fasters and their allies themselves — that some very good stuff got lost in the process of reporting it all on this site.

[Editor’s Note: Of course, we are partial to these three extraordinary videos — one, two, three — from the CIW media team, which definitely merit a re-watching if you haven’t seen them in a while!]

Today we wanted to highlight a few of those things lost in the flood of Fast coverage, including two more fun, and well-made, videos that convey some of the unique spirit and pageantry of Day Six of the Fast (one of which is above and the other at the end of this post).

But first, we wanted to start with an article that appeared in the pages of the environmental/food justice blog grist.org. The article, entitled “Publix humiliation: Workers, students fasting for fair food” (3/1/12), takes a deeply critical look at the contradiction between the supermarket industry’s efforts to manufacture an emotional bond between its customers and its brands, on the one hand, and the brutal reality of farmworker exploitation and the industry’s indifference to that exploitation, on the other. Here’s an extended excerpt:

“… The work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers moves us, and leaves us surprised. My generation was trained to think solidarity like this can’t happen. We were raised to be cynics. Unlike those born in earlier generations, we have pretty much always known that the dominant message about our food — beaming at us from cereal boxes and billboards — is a lie. We’re aware that advertising is a Wizard of Oz light show, only what’s behind the curtain isn’t a funny old man, it’s a sweatshop.

The trick works because it meets our yearning for a sort of family. Advertisements teach us that ready-made rice brings three generations together for Sunday dinner, organic yogurt brings you back to the farm, and food corporations use friendly first names and build for us a family. We get kid sisters Wendy and Little Debbie, Papa John and Jimmy John, and moms like Betty Crocker and Sarah Lee.

In a similar vein, Publix market offers up this Thanksgiving-themed ad featuring a down-to-earth grandma (above) who makes her signature stuffing and teaches us about family (click here to see the commercial on youtube). She joins the polite bustle of a multi-generational feast and leaves us with this message: Maybe cooking and family are difficult and time-consuming, but “when the right ingredients come together, it’s magic.”

Publix knows food is never just about caloric intake: Food is always ritual, it always carries the weight of family. We hunger not for the “right ingredients,” but for magic — a spark of connection.

But if the CIW can marshal hundreds of supporters around the country for their Fast for Fair Food, it is perhaps because they’re also offering consumers that connection. Their popularity suggests that in the face of corporate seduction, we maintain our authenticity not through disengagement, but engagement. Contact, not dropping out. Because the ones who bring us food are family, in a way.

If Publix wants us to be emotionally engaged with their produce aisle, then by all means let’s engage. But let’s find a better way, that doesn’t give us this emotional-manipulation-for-profit hangover. We could start with tomatoes.

Tomatoes aren’t “magic”: They come from somewhere. Before they form the “right ingredients” for a television grandma’s recipe, those tomatoes are grown and harvested by people…” read more

The article is a deft deconstruction of Publix’s hypocrisy when it comes to the Fair Food Program, and is definitely worth taking five minutes to read. You can find it in its entirety here.

Youtube is full of good stuff from the Fast, too, including footage from the Student/Farmworker Alliance’s own traveling troubadour, Liz Fitzgerald, playing one of her Campaign for Fair Food-inspired adaptations at the end of the closing rally on Day Six (above). And here below is another nice youtube find, this one produced by Orlando mayoral candidate Mike Cantone who joined the fasters for the Day Six march and rally and filed his own report, which he prefaced with the words: “Sometimes there are things more important than a campaign…” Enjoy:

And, as always, check back soon for more from the Campaign for Fair Food!