Compass Group USA announces first generation of Fair Food Chefs on new website!

Russell Szekely (above), VP of Canteen Culinary – a part of Compass Groups USA – shares his reflections on the Fair Food Program after a visit to Immokalee.

Fair Food Chef Paul Ruszat with Morrison Healthcare (of Compass Group USA): “If the sustainability doesn’t start with the people that are growing and picking our food then the rest doesn’t matter.”

Today, we bring you news of a brand-new campaign by one of the Fair Food Program’s participating buyers, Compass Group USA!  Compass serves 9.8 million meals every day at its countless different venues, from school lunchrooms to corporate cafes, and the communications team at Compass has set out to share the story of the Fair Food Program, and its partnership with the CIW, along with the meals it serves.  Over the past year, Compass Group has been quietly investing in educating the leaders within the company – from those who source tomatoes and other fresh produce, to the chefs who carefully prepare meals in school cafeterias, hospitals, and restaurants across the country – about the topic of Fair Food.  And now, Compass is taking this mission beyond the walls of the company and straight to its millions of customers.

After several multi-day visits to Immokalee to meet with farmworker leaders and participating growers over the past year, Compass recently published a brand-new microsite on Fair Food, where it describes the company’s commitment to support and expand the groundbreaking changes in the fields wrought by the Fair Food Program.  Here are just a few highlights from their new site:


At Compass, safety, health, and environment come first. We never compromise on the health and safety of the people in our communities. We also have a zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination. We share these values in common with the CIW and FFP. Farm work is the third most dangerous job in the U.S. and women who work in the fields are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault. Farmworkers deserve safe working conditions and opportunities to advance beyond the field. Our partnership is making positive changes in the industry.

Video of Suzanne Yip from Chartwells K-12, reflecting on leaving the world better for the next generation.

You can check out the microsite here to get the full story of Compass’s support for the Fair Food Program, including the complete roster of the first generation of “Fair Food Chefs” – among whom is a Top Chef champion, Joe Flamm, currently at the helm in the kitchens of Levy Restaurants.

At the same time, one of Compass’s many partners, Morrison Healthcare, added its voice to the conversation, publishing its own blogpost about its leadership’s visit to Immokalee and spotlighting Fair Food with an educational Instagram Story!  Here are some of the highlights from their blogpost:

Fighting for Workers’ Rights with Fair Food

Tomatoes Make Headlines

This August we highlight tomatoes as our Superfood of the Month. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, low in calories (only about 30 per cup), and star in many delicious summer dishes. Over the years though, tomatoes’ nutritional benefits aren’t necessarily what has earned their publicity. In the 1800s, the debate over whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Spoiler alert: tomatoes are botanically a fruit, but legally a vegetable.

But around Morrison Healthcare and Compass Group, there’s another issue surrounding tomatoes, more specifically tomato farmers that has forever changed the food industry and our own hearts: the issue of modern day slavery and the fight for fair food.

For decades, farm work has been one of the lowest paying jobs in the country. Ninety percent of winter tomatoes are grown in Florida where historically tomato farmers have been subject to wage theft, sexual violence, and forced labor. There is, however, hope. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and large retailers like Morrison and Compass Group are committed to rewriting history through initiatives like the Fair Food Program (FFP). […]

[…] The Success of A Movement

The success of a movement hinges on its supporters who are ready and poised to take action. Compass Group has rallied a Coalition of Fair Food Chefs. Two of those chefs are Morrison’s Cary Neff, VP of Culinary and Paul Ruszat, Regional Executive Chef.  

During their trip to Immokalee, FL, they observed and learned first-hand about the hardship farmworkers face:

“The visit to Immokalee was an awakening experience for me,” said Cary. “I spent the vast majority of my life celebrating and promoting the use of fresh, seasonal produce and although I knew that farmworkers were undervalued for their hard work…it never occurred to me that this group of workers, who we desperately rely on to provide sustenance to our tables would be engaged in a fight for their civil rights.”

Growing up, Paul’s mother taught English as a second language to students near Immokalee. While he was familiar with what used to take place, “The trip to Immokalee brought a heightened awareness of the worker’s plight and has changed the way I shop for food both personally and professionally.”

“In my opinion,” Paul says, “If the sustainability doesn’t start with the people that are growing and picking our food then the rest doesn’t matter. If you’ve got people in slave-like conditions picking your tomatoes, it doesn’t matter how ‘sustainable’ your tomatoes are if people are enduring hardships while picking it.”

Because of their roles in sourcing, purchasing and preparing food, chefs are ideally situated on the front lines to fight for clean and safe foods, safe working environments, fair pay and fair treatment.

Cary continues to encourage our teams to learn more about the Immokalee Farm Workers, demand for Fair Food tomatoes and other fair trade products. He’s encouraging Morrison chefs to speak up too.

“Let our buyers know to purchase responsibility and let our consumers know why it’s important to the lives of others and why we are taking a stand!”

We’ll conclude with the words of  Jae Church (below), the Corporate Executive Chef at the Morrison Community Living and one of the many Fair Food Chefs who came down to visit Immokalee during a Compass delegation.

Hear, hear!  As the new cohort of Fair Food Chefs learned on their visits to Immokalee, the Fair Food Program was built by farmworkers – but, the Program’s unique market consequences, made possible through the commitment of companies like Compass Group USA, are the power behind the enforcement of workers’ fundamental human rights in the fields.  We look forward to expanding our partnership with Compass Group and other participating buyers to bring this commitment to human rights in the food chain to many, many more crops in the years ahead!