Words of Support for the Fast

Eric schlosser, author, producer


"Publix claims, in its corporate mission statement, to be 'Involved as Responsible Citizens in our Communities.' Now it has an opportunity to give real meaning to those words--by helping to end the exploitation of farm workers whose backbreaking labor fills the shelves at Publix supermarkets with good food. It's a disgrace that a Florida company refuses to take responsibility for abuses occurring within miles of its stores. If McDonald's and Burger King and Taco Bell can commit to ending slavery and wage theft and sexual harassment in the tomato fields of Florida, then one of the state's largest supermarket chains can easily do the same. I'm sorry that I can't be in Lakeland to support the Fast for Fair Food. But I applaud the great courage and dedication to social justice that drives the Coalition of Immokalee Workers."


Dr. patrick Mason, Professor of Economics, Director of African American Studies Program, Florida State University


"It is odd that Publix refuses to be a good Samaritan. This highly respected Florida grocer is not among the corporations pledging not to purchase agricultural products from growers who violate the Fair Food Code of Conduct. The Fair Food Code of Conduct requires growers to act in a morally and ethically appropriate manner, that is, to treat their workers as they wish to be treated: improve wages, establish a complaint resolution system, establish a health and safety program, and other important improvements. McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, and other major corporate purchasers of tomatoes have signed on to the agreement, which will affect the lives of more than 33,000 agricultural workers in the state of Florida. Unlike Publix, these companies are acting to bring relief to the poor.


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, many local churches from around the state, and many concerned friends are fasting in Lakeland to get Publix to get on the team to eliminate unjust labor practices in Florida. When I think of the command to “love thy neighbor and thyself,” I think of the work of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their many supporters throughout the state of Florida – fighting for social and economic justice for agricultural laborers. I joyfully support the Coalition of Immokalee Farmworkers as they struggle to get Publix to assist in enforcing the Fair Food Code of Conduct. Please help fight the good fight."


Sue Carter, Retired public school Teacher, Ohio Fair Food


"Once again, as they have so often over the past eighteen years, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their allies are meeting grave injustice with courage and strength. By choosing this six-day Fast for Fair Food, the CIW and all who are gathering in Lakeland on March 5 are sending a powerful message to Publix Super Markets to join the Fair Food Program now. The success achieved by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, in their steadfast commitment to non-violent protest, serves as a lesson to all Americans that we can and must act to end the harvest of shame that has persisted for so long throughout our land.


To Farmworkers: As you prepare for this sacrifice, we celebrate your unprecedented achievement in creating a collaborative model in which buyers, growers, and workers all participate equally and in bringing into the Fair Food Program ten major corporations over the past ten years. Your unprecedented success bears testimony to your unflagging courage in this struggle. The groundbreaking changes which have begun taking place in 90% of Florida's fields show that justice can prevail against powerful odds.


We salute you today as you make this sacrifice to call for an end to brutality and exploitation of workers. Faith groups, human rights groups, and students in Ohio send their messages of support to you all today as you prepare for this fast. I am honored to join you this coming week as you fast and to experience again, as I have in the past, the joy of sharing this amazing journey for justice with you."


Dr. John Dwyer, retired public school teacher, naples


"Gandhi says that 'it is always a good thing to go with others in any matter of self-denial.' Such thinking is in line with monastic fasting during Lent, Muslim fasting during Ramadan, Hindu and Buddhist periods of Ramzan, and many other periods of self-purification, self-restraint and self-denial called for as a practice of faith, sometimes for penance, sometimes to resist political and economic injustices in our non-violent struggle against evil in this world. Sometimes it is undertaken by people with no faith at all, like Kafka's "A Hunger Artist".


Our short 6-day fast is focused to influence Mr. Ed Crenshaw and Mr. Charlie Jenkins Jr. of Publix, Inc. to soften their hearts toward Florida tomato pickers; we pray that they allow the purifying influence of our public self-denial to call their consciences into poignant awareness of their ability to end the century-long exploitation of migrant workers and their families--people who are so poorly paid that they must endure forced fasts when the weather or sickness or other factors prohibit their picking; pickers whose families are so poor they live for months out of their cars in hidden-away parking places on wealthy farmers' land."


Rev. Allison Farnum, Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers


"I want to invite you into an experience. Next week, I will answer the call to join members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in a Fast for Fair Food at the Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Florida...


... Publix, a community-oriented grocery chain (and also one of our nation’s largest corporations), has refused the CIW’s request that they pay an additional penny per pound of tomatoes and sign the Fair Food Code of Conduct to ensure fair treatment in Florida fields. I am fed up with them ignoring the Coalition, as well as my own attempts to reach out and have a conversation. For over two years, CIW and its allies have asked Publix to come to the table and talk about the tomatoes they buy. Yet Publix ignores us...


... This is where you come in. While I am at Publix headquarters for 6 days, I want you to deliver a manager letter to your local grocery store chain. Ask the grocery store to come to the table with the CIW, pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes, and sign on to the Fair Food Code of Conduct for safe Florida fields. I have witnessed how the fair food premium makes a difference in a person’s paycheck. But it’s still not a living wage when large grocery chains won’t participate.

Let me know of any actions you do in solidarity during the Fast for Fair Food and don’t forget the power of a good “pray-in” in the produce aisle! I believe this nonviolent, loving Fast for Fair Food can help bring us closer to Publix signing on. The spirit of Love will be among us, with your prayers and your support." read more


Kerry Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights


"On March 10th, I will join the CIW in Lakeland, Florida, to let Publix know that injustice will not stand.


On March 10th, 1968, my father broke bread with Cesar Chavez in Delano, California, as he ended his historic non-violent protest for farm labor justice. And so it is my great honor to commemorate that day with farmworkers from Immokalee and allies from around the country as they break their own fast outside Publix headquarters, the site where we rededicate ourselves to bringing dignity to US agriculture and real, lasting respect for human rights to our food system."


Mr. Martin Sheen
Actor, human rights activist


"The decision to fast for six days by farmworkers and their allies is, whether Publix knows it or not, a precious gift to company leaders.


By uniting the will of the spirit with the sacrifice of the flesh, Immokalee tomato pickers will, once again, teach Publix and actually all of us a vital lesson in courage, of how to transform inequality and upend injustice through the sacred power of non-violence."


Raj patel
author, academic, activist


"I confess that I couldn’t quite believe the Publix response to news that the tomatoes in their stores may involve modern-day slavery: 'If there are some atrocities going on, it's not our business.'


How do you confront an organization as morally numb as this? With compassion. The fast can’t succeed unless Publix recognizes the humanity of the workers in Immokalee. And that is the great strength of this fast: it works not by embarrassing a shameless Fortune 500 company, but by reminding the people who work there that they too are human, are capable of compassion, and of making change that is life-affirming."


Arielle Rosenberg, Rabbinical Student at Hebrew College, Rabbis for Human Rights


"And I returned and considered all the oppressions that were done under the sun and beheld the tears of those that were oppressed and they had no comforter, but on the side of their oppressor there was power, but they had no comforter." (Ecclesiastes 4:1)


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has issued an invitation to consumers again and again over the last twenty years to recognize that what enables the comfortable stupor of consumption are abusive working conditions, low wages, and environmental havoc. It has invited us to remember that we are not just individuals, mired in comfort, but instead form a grand network of people who share a common reality, common struggles. Not only does the CIW invite us to recognize this, but it asks us to take action.


The Fast for Fair Food is a chance for workers and allies to come together, to refuse the comfort of food for six days, and to grow strong together. There is a power in strength, in clarity of vision, in living into a reality that holds that those who harvest the food for this nation should not go hungry, that those whose labors form the foundation of this society should be recognized and work with dignity. It is a stony strength that allows people to gather, in Florida and across the country, and insist that Publix take notice and commit to honoring the work of those who make their business possible.


I will be fasting this week in Boston, and I stand with the CIW and all those who will be gathering in Lakeland. There is nothing comfortable about denying the body food, there is nothing comfortable about missing work for a week, or spending a week telling Publix what they should have recognized long ago. The Fast for Fair Food cannot be comfortable, but it will be transformative. That transformation will bring about a change at Publix, that's for certain. It will also bring about a change in how we see each other, and what we know to be possible."


Lucy Butte, California Director of National Farm Workers Ministry


"I am in prayer for you as you begin this very beautiful experience seeking
solidarity in true communion with each other and God's grace. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in their "First Fridays for Food Security: August 5, 2011," issue a call on the faithful to: "Be mindful of the struggle of farm workers for dignity, and when possible, consider purchasing goods from markets and companies that ensure just treatment of farm workers and pay a wage that is sufficient to support a family. As more consumers become concerned with the treatment of farm workers, fair trade movements and products are becoming more prevalent in the marketplace."


The church stands with you as you fast for justice. My prayers are that each of the fasters may know that there are many who are joining them in prayer, some fasting and all in solidarity asking our God to break through Publix leadership's hearts and minds that they may do what is just, moral and responsible. And that is to come to the table with farm workers and Immokalee to address farm worker issues."


Professor Eric Castillo,
Assistant Director and Multicultural & Diversity Affairs Director of the Institute for Hispanic-Latino Cultures -- "La Casita" -- at the University of Florida


"On behalf of the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures "La Casita," I want to express to you all our wholehearted support for your brave and valiant efforts. We are moved by your willingness to sacrifice so much of yourselves for such a worthy cause. While your bodies may grow weary from hunger, we are praying for your good health and success in bringing Publix to the table. We stand in solidarity with you and want you to know that your sacrifice reminds us of our responsibility to advocate for equity, parity, inclusion, and social justice for everyone."


Josh Viertel
President, Slow Food USA


"There is a story behind our food. And it should be a story that makes us proud. We should be able to buy tomatoes at Publix supermarkets that have been picked by people who are treated with dignity and paid fair wages. Publix has an obligation to support fundamental human rights for farmworkers in Florida and beyond. That’s why the Fast for Fair Food matters."


Rev. Dr. Jeff Krehbiel
Pastor, Church of the Pilgrims
Presbyterian Church USA


The season that we're in now, the season of Lent, is the season most associated with fasting. Lent is often a season that's thought of as having particular disciplines, and fasting along with prayer and alms giving, giving to the support of the poor, are often considered the three primary disciplines in the season of Lent. So the idea of fasting, of giving something up for Lent that people are familiar with, is the idea both in relationship to Jesus' own suffering but also as an act of solidarity with other people who are suffering. [...] [It has been connected] with larger protest movements, like Gandhi fasting as a way of drawing attention to the cause of Indian independence, or as a way of resisting the violence between India and Pakistan, things like that. Christians fast during Lent because it fits the season, but also to do it with a particular group of people in mind as a way of drawing attention to their cause and their plight, such as the farmworkers, is a really appropriate re-appropriation of a very ancient tradition.


For the farmworkers who are taking on voluntary fasting, as a way of drawing attention to the situation of themselves and their families and their colleagues, I think they are following in a deep tradition and are picking up on some of the spiritual giants of human history who have gone before them, who have fasted as a way shining a light and reflecting back the injustice of a situation in which they find themselves. So I think it's an act of courage, and it's a spiritual act.


Part of the experience of being in a modern consumer culture is that we are deeply disconnected from the resources that we consume on a regular basis. A lot of times spiritual traditions are thought of as disconnecting us from material things -- that what spiritual life is supposed to do is for us to think less about material things. But I think actually a proper understanding of spiritual life is that it actually connects us more deeply to material things, because part of the problem in our culture is that we are disconnected -- we don't know where our food comes from, how it was prepared, who grew it, how it was grown, and we eat it mindlessly. So to consume food mindfully is to be reconnected to the materiality of that food. And that's part of what fasting does, you have to think about the fact that you're not going to eat, which we usually eat so mindlessly, we don't think about the food that we're eating. So fasting has the effect of making us mindful of the food that we will eat.


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers fit into that because they have been inviting conversation partners [...] The gift that they are offering to the religious community and the wider society of the United States is that they are putting a human face on what has been a part of that food chain that has been faceless. ... Once you know their story, and once you've been made aware -- once you become mindful, it's hard to be mindless again -- that's been their great gift, they've invited us to be in solidarity with them, to add our voices to theirs, so that real change can happen that will change the conditions in which they live.


Rev. Raymond Kemp, S.T.L.
Woodstock Theological Center
Georgetown University


Today, the Catholic Church read from good Hebrew scripture, in Isaiah 58. Isaiah said, the Lord says this is the fast that I desire: that you would feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless, and release those bound unjustly, and not turn your back on your own. Fasting in the basic Jewish-Christian-Qu'arnic tradition has always been not just fasting for the sake of fasting, but fasting for the sake of a conversion, a change in attitudes, a change in behavior, a change in things for the better.


Fasting for many people signifies a sort of purification, too -- getting the crappy stuff out of our diets, getting all the crappy stuff out of our bodies, looking for some kind of purification. I think the real purification is making the relationship between the soil, those that produce the food, those who planted it, kept it nourished, harvested it, the table, and what we do with what we don't use afterwards. By interrupting the cycle of nourishment, you become more aware.


If you buy organic, you're supposed to be freed from all kinds of poisons. The point of this movement is getting back to the good earth, back to the good soil -- getting as close to our food source as we can get. It's about getting in touch with the notion that, if you're eating something that's been picked by somebody who is underaged, malnourished, ill-housed, treated like a piece of farm equipment -- there's something wrong. If there's no love in the food, no love in the planting, no love in the harvesting, no love in the producing of that kind of food, you really are dealing with something that is poisonous to every system that you're going to touch it with. It doesn't have to do with just you're own diet, it has much more to do with -- the source, the earth, the land, the closeness, the sense of seeing ourselves in some kind of relationship who made it happen .... I think all this makes enormous good sense in terms of health on every level of our society. It's not just about the organic health of the food product itself, but everything that goes into making that possible.


Rabbi Charles Feinberg
Adas Israel Congregation
Co-Chair, Rabbis for Human Rights North America


We want to make people more aware of the working conditions of the food that we eat -- the working conditions of the laborers who pick the food that we eat, or produce the products that we use that are so abundant in our culture. We think that we have a moral obligation, a religious obligation, to be more aware, first of all, of the conditions, and we hope that awareness will lead to positive action.


The Fair Food Campaign is very important. We feel we have a moral obligation to make sure that all workers in our country can work under safe working conditions, that there's no fear of being abused, either physically or sexually, that they receive a fair living wage, and that their dignity is respected. To me, those are fundamental rights, human rights, and we feel very strongly that we have been too negligent as a country in guaranteeing those rights.


Fasting is an important part of the Jewish tradition. In pre-modern times, a fast was called if there was a severe crisis in the community, such a drought or a natural disaster, which affected fertility or famine in the land. [...] Fasting is also a way to signal a recognition of our responsibility toward others. We may have fallen down on that responsibility, and it's a way to signal that we are trying to renew ourselves so that we can assume responsibility that we must take.


Obviously, the farmwokers need to assert themselves, and push for what is due to them, but at the same time, they should know that they have many friends and supporters throughout the country, and many, many religious communities feel that this is a moral obligation to support them, that we should increase our awareness of how food gets to our tables, and that we want to ensure that their dignity is respected.


[To farmworkers]: I pray that God continues to bless you and give you strength, because this is not an easy struggle. I hope that God gives you the courage to stand up for your own rights, and the wisdom to discern what is truly in your interest.


The Reverand Michael Livingston, National Council of Churches:


"I love tomatoes. Many of us do. But can we eat them in good conscience when we know that the farm workers who pick them are grossly underpaid and work under conditions that most of us do not and would not tolerate?


Can we live with doing nothing when the companies who hire them or who benefit disproportionately from their labor refuse to acknowledge their responsibility for the plight of farm workers and, like Publix, will not engage in constructive conversation about meaningful change?


We are all in this life together. We are all fed from the bounty of the earth. I am going to join farm workers in Lakeland, FL in a fast as part of the Fair Food Campaign. I do not regard this as a hardship on my part. By God’s grace I can offer the luxury of my time to brothers and sisters whose humanity I value as much as my own. I count it a privilege, as the season of Lent begins, to, as Paul asks of us in Romans 12:1: “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”


Professor Carol Anderson, Emory University:


"The decision to fast, to deny one’s body essential nourishment, to turn away from the very sustenance that gives life, can only happen when faced with a soul-crushing oppression that has rendered that very life precarious in the first place. Freedom fighters from Mahatma Gandhi to Anatoly Marchenko fasted to expose brutal systems of oppression. They fasted to make clear that there were no chains, no jails, no retribution strong enough to shackle the quest for dignity and human rights.


The Campaign for Fair Food is in the same spirit. Martin Luther King, Jr. summarized it best. In his journey to shine a klieg light on the horrific labor conditions endured by the sanitation workers in Memphis, King observed, in the last speech of his life, that “When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.” That is the core essence of the Campaign for Fair Food and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers."


Marley Moynahan, Student, Georgetown University, DC Fair Food:


Why Fast? A Reflection on the Fast for Fair Food


"... Fasting as a form of non-violent action – the refusal to be compliant and silent in the face of profound injustice - is the tool of those who believe that every human being amounts to something more valuable than brick and mortar. Those who believe that the path of gross inequality and economic injustice is wholly and unequivocally unacceptable – primarily because it is deeply and morally wrong, and additionally because it is unsustainable in any realistic longer vision of our future.


The Campaign for Fair Food is an amplified collection of voices of farmworkers, young people, people of faith, and many other community members who are breathing life into the possibility of an alternative future. Already, in two decades, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their allies have made enormous gains: increased pay for farmworkers in Florida, basic rights in the field such as shade, water, and freedom from violence, and a growing partnership of actors spread across the food chain who are shaping an entirely new, concrete system that fosters dialogue, respect, and accountability. Only last week, Trader Joe’s joined the Fair Food family, demonstrating, alongside Whole Foods, that supermarkets can join the fast food and food service industries in transforming U.S. agriculture from the soil to the kitchen.


Even in the same moment that we congratulate Trader Joe’s and the nine other companies who have signed Fair Food Agreements with the CIW, there are still companies like Publix who are refusing to come to the table – who claim that their hands are clean and they have no role to play...


... That is why, as a young person profoundly invested in the future, as a Publix shopper, as a member of the human family, I am fasting for six days with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in March. I will not concede to a future which requires routine violence in the name of Publix’s profit – or a future which marks someone else’s suffering as my “gain” in the form of an artificially cheap tomato. The sustainable path that I want to construct, that I am depending on requires dignity and respect for the whole human family – period." read more


The Reverend Noelle Damico, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):


"Fasting is a spiritual practice embraced by many faith traditions. People of faith may be familiar with fasting at Ramadan within the Muslim community or fasting undertaken during Lent in the Christian community. Fasting has an ancient history and is part of scriptural texts that inspire faith...


... There are a variety of “purposes” for fasting, but a central purpose is that of reconciliation – to God and to one’s neighbor. From the practice of fasting we should be able to see God’s vision for our world more clearly and become determined to live with integrity. Fasting helps us identify the grave injustices around us, acknowledge and take responsibility for our participation and complicity in such injustice, and prepares us to act with God to transform ourselves and our world.


Prayer is an important compliment to fasting and focuses our confessions and intercessions. Practitioners of fasting often report an intensity to their prayer lives – as if the shedding of food for a period makes space in the mind, heart, body, and soul for God. While fasting heightens the believer’s spiritual awareness, it also brings lasting insights into the physical needs of the body and the daily struggles of those who are hungry and poor. When we fast, we physically experience in a small way the evil of hunger that daily deprives millions of our sisters and brothers of health and life...


... And so you are invited to join this fast for justice and fair food with members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. May it be a time of purification for you, as you seek truth and clarity. May it be a time of divine encounter, when you experience the presence and power of God. May it be a time of community, as the workers are strengthened by your witness, and you are strengthened by theirs. And finally, may it be a time of re-orientation, that you may name the patterns of injustice and commit anew to their transformation. May we be the change we wish to see in the world."


Barry Estabrook, food writer, author of Tomatoland:


"The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) should be celebrating. Last week Trader Joe’s signed a Fair Food Agreement with the Florida-based labor justice group. The agreement grants basic rights and higher wages to Florida tomato harvesters.


But the celebrations were short-lived. The CIW announced that 50 of its members and their supporters would be going on a fast. For six days, beginning March 5, the Fast for Fair Food will take place at the headquarters of Publix Supermarkets, a $25-billion, Florida-based company that operates more than 1,000 stores in the Southeast.


“We are fasting today so that tomorrow none of our children are forced to surrender their dignity or to suffer hunger just to work,” Darinel Sales, one of the workers who will be taking part, wrote in an email. “We are fasting so that the people in charge of Publix can soften their hearts and sit with us to construct a reality in which prosperity is not based on the blood, sweat, and humiliation of farmworkers"...


... No food conglomerate has an excuse, least of all Florida-based Publix. Not only are the state’s tomato workers its customers, but the Publix website boasts about the firm’s “community involvement,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “commitment to our market areas.” It proclaims itself to be Florida’s “neighborhood grocer.”


Maria Brous, Publix’s director of media and community relations, did not return telephone calls. The company has said in press statements that it would be more than willing to pay a penny more per pound if that amount was included in the price the growers charged, but it refuses to pay pickers directly. (Which is odd because under the Fair Food Agreement the extra penny is, in fact, included in the price.) Slavery, Publix says, should be prosecuted under existing laws. And if labor conditions are too strenuous in the tomato industry, the company thinks workers should simply find another employer.


Like the farm owners in the 1990s, executives at Publix have steadfastly refused all requests to enter into dialogue with the CIW. They would do well to remember the famous words of the philosopher and writer George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." read more