Fair Food committees popping up on campuses, now!

CIW: No Vengo Solo (I Am Not Alone) from Fine Print on Vimeo.

Last month we told you about the growth of Fair Food committees in cities from New York City to Denver, Colorado.

Well, never ones to be outdone when it comes to organizing in solidarity with farmworkers, students across the country are forming Fair Food committees on campuses across the country!

The video above is one of two produced by students at the University of Florida in Gainesville following their participation in the big march on Publix in Tampa at the culmination of the Do the Right Thing Tour. The same UF students also moved their student government to pass a formal resolution calling on Publix to work with the CIW back in January.

At NYU, where a new Student/Farmworker Alliance chapter is forming, students are taking a particular interest in Trader Joe’s. In a webpost announcing their formation, the students write, “The Trader Joe’s campaign will be the first task of the NYU SFA, but we hope to create a lasting core of NYU students who are dedicated to farmworker justice.”

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, Vanderbilt University students have formed “Vanderbilt Campaign for Fair Food.” Following an alternative spring break visit to Immokalee, a group of 12 students returned to campus and wasted no time in starting a Fair Food chapter there (Vanderbilt was one of dozens of schools to visit Immmokalee in the past weeks, pledging to take the campaign back with them). In an excellent, first-person article in the Vanderbilt Orbis, Caitlin Mitchell chronicles the trajectory of the students’ experience, from apprehension to education to action:

“I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure if my ASB trip, “Talking ‘Bout a Revolution,” would hold true to its title. I’d heard ASB veterans speak highly of the new found friendships they formed during the week, but they didn’t talk much about the actual service projects. Add to that car troubles that landed my group of twelve Vanderbilt students stranded at a Florida gas station for five hours, and soon others in my group were becoming apprehensive about what we would actually accomplish during a week with tomato farmers as well. But on our ASB trip, I think we planted seeds of a connection that will last for years…

… One morning, we woke up at five to go to the parking lots where tomato growers pick up workers to go to the fields. This was a disconcerting experience as well because while most growers transported workers in old school buses, some workers were literally just loaded into produce trucks.

The coalition also showed us two sites in Immokalee where laborers had been held under conditions of actual slavery. One site was right in the middle of town only a few blocks away from CIW’s headquarters… [where] workers had been chained and kept in trailers or box trucks at night. These two cases were brought to court in 1999 and 2008, but several more cases of modern-day slavery have surfaced in the southeastern United States in the last fifteen years. CIW has been instrumental in taking these cases to court and has even produced a mobile modern slavery museum to raise awareness of the issue.

Obviously, the Coalition fights for more than wage increases for tomato workers. When corporations agree to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes, they also sign an agreement to institute CIW’s code of conduct among the company’s tomato suppliers. Among other things, this code requires that workers receive minimum wage and that tomato growers provide basic amenities like shade and water for workers in the fields…

… Returning to the “VanderBubble” can be one of the most difficult parts of ASB: it’s difficult to know how to connect the week’s eye-opening experiences back with daily life. Fortunately, student organizations have been integral in the Coalition’s success, so anyone can help them work for justice. Vanderbilt has a student organization called the Vanderbilt Campaign for Fair Food that works closely with CIW, and members of our ASB group are now helping them organize and execute several exciting events.” read more (photo by Jon Christian)

The article is truly thoughtful and well-written. If you are a student and are interested in organizing a Fair Food committee on your campus, take a moment to read the article in its entirety and then check out the Student/Farmworker Alliance website for more on all kinds of resources you can use to get started!

Meanwhile, here are a few more pics from the exciting World Communion of Reformed Churches conference this weekend in Southwest Florida:

A delegation of religious leaders made it out to Immokalee during the conference for a presentation on the Campaign for Fair Food and a visit with CIW members …

… during which Pastor Miguel from Mision Peniel in Immokalee interviewed church leaders from Switzerland, Italy, and Cuba in the CIW’s Radio Conciencia studio.

The Thursday afternoon protest in Naples outside a local Publix was large and loud, and included WCRC delegates from 16 countries. The man on the far right with the “Justice” sign is the Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi, General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

Later that evening, a panel discussed the role of the church in working for economic justice. Panelists included (from left to right): Gerardo Reyes of the CIW, Kent Siladi (FL UCC Conf Minister), Graham Hart (Peace River Presbytery), Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi (General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches), Rev. Tom Harp of Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church (standing), Rev. Dona Arce of the Presbyterian Church of Cuba, and Yvette Noble Bloomfield of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.