Letters from the Front: Consumers tell their favorite food companies that justice comes before brand loyalty…

Chipotle, Publix told: Give us Fair Food, or we’re not coming back!

From time to time, consumers send us copies of letters they have written to their favorite food companies in which they take the corporation to task for not supporting the Fair Food Program. The letters are inevitably poignant, because when someone has spent years patronizing a restaurant or grocery store in his or her city, the bonds that develop can grow quite strong. But values are values, and when you suddenly realize that a cold, corporate heart beats behind the smiling, familiar faces at your favorite fast food hangout, everything changes.

Today we are bringing you two such letters, one to “Food with Integrity” darling Chipotle, and the other to Florida’s largest grocer, Publix. Here’s the first, from a Fair Food ally (who has chosen to remain nameless), responding to a Chipotle representative who answered his first inquiry with the same sort of answers we have deconstructed before on this site:


Thank you for your thorough reply to my inquiry as to why Chipotle is refusing to sign the Fair Food Agreement. I’ve become interested in this matter after talking to some folks who support the Agreement. I’ve been a long-time and frequent customer at your chain of restaurants because they offer a healthier alternative to the usual fast-food burger joint.

I must take issue, however, with your comment that the company does “not believe that you need to have a contract to do the right thing.” Unlike your burritos, your argument of “trust me, the company is doing the right thing” is a little hard to swallow. Without the Agreement there is no guarantee that the penny is actually being paid. The Fair Food Agreement lays out a commitment that it gets paid and tracks it through the supply chain.

Without a Fair Food Agreement, Chipotle has no enforcement mechanisms to make sure the growers are implementing the new code of conduct, has no way of monitoring growers and major buyers to address violations of the code that come in from the field and therefore no way of truly knowing the conditions of the workers picking their tomatoes. Chipotle has clearly demonstrated its concerns for pigs, chickens and even vegetables. How about making that commitment to the actual human beings who are harvesting the ingredients you use every day.

When, almost 40 years ago, I told the woman who is now my wife that we really didn’t need a marriage license because I was always going to do right by her she smiled, kissed me on the cheek and said she wanted a real commitment. I did do the right thing and signed the marriage contract. Likewise, you guys should sign the Fair Food Agreement. I won’t give you a kiss on the cheek, but I will continue to buy your burritos.”

You see now why we can’t help but share these letters, at least every now and then…

The second letter is from Edward R. Sunshine of Miami Shores, Florida, to Mr. Ed Crenshaw, CEO of Publix Supermarkets:

“Dear Mr. Crenshaw:

I am writing to you because I am concerned about the treatment of the workers in the tomato fields of Florida. For many years now, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) has been trying to improve the conditions of these workers, with some success. So far Publix has not cooperated in these efforts, even though other major food stores have. I do not understand what the problem is.

For more than twenty-four years, I have been a faithful customer of your store in Miami Shores. My family spends a lot of money at that store; by my calculation more than $4,600 in 2011. I have enclosed our Publix receipts for 2011 so you can check for yourself. I would like to continue shopping at your store, but I am uncomfortable doing business with a company that is not concerned about the wages paid to the people that pick its products in the fields.

Other companies have found a way to sign on to the Fair Food Program sponsored by CIW. Why can’t Publix do the same?”

Short, sweet, and straight to the point. Letters like these arrive at the corporate headquarters of companies like Publix, Chipotle, Giant, Stop & Shop, and Kroger every day, but the vast majority are either totally ignored or answered with such a stock response that everyone would have been better off if they had saved the paper.

Well, here’s what you can do to be sure that, next time, when you take up pen and paper to write to your favorite food company, someone there actually sees the letter: Send it to us! We will publish letters that are copied to us as often as we can and share them not only with the rest of the Fair Food Nation, but with the company executives who read this website everyday, too. May the mailbag be forever overflowing!…