New Fair Food Label takes off!

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Excerpt of Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, speaking on Huffington Post Live about the Fair Food label on Food Day.  To watch the full interview, click here.

New Fair Food Program label a huge hit in print and social media on Food Day… 

The Fair Food Program’s new label debuted this past Friday, and it made quite the splash in the national media and the Twittersphere in the process!  The label, which was nearly five years in the making while the Fair Food Program was hard at work in the fields cleaning up generations of exploitation and abuse, was greeted with real excitement by consumers, food movement groups and media outlets alike as the next big step in the movement to build a more modern food industry that respects fundamental human rights.  We’ve collected some of the very best coverage and social media reactions for you in a special label launch media round-up!

First up, Huffington Post Live conducted an interview on the morning of the launch with Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, about the significance of the label.  Check out the video above for an excerpt from the interview with Kerry (if you want to watch the the full interview, click here).  

Down here in Florida, the Ft. Myers News-Press published a very strong, front page story situating the Fair Food label as the most recent milestone in a remarkable year for the Fair Food Program.  Here is the article in full:


CIW debuts Fair Food label nationwide

By Amy Bennett Williams, October 24, 2014

fairfood_icon_600The first-ever Fair Food label went national Friday marking the latest milestone in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ two-decade-long journey to improve the lives of Florida farmworkers.

Similar to the “cruelty-free” or “fair trade” labels on other products, the logo brands tomatoes harvested by workers paid a premium and guaranteed human rights in the field.

“We have waited nearly five years before revealing this label to the world today,” said the coalition’s Cruz Salucio in a statement. “Over those years, we have been doing the hard, day-by-day work of building the Fair Food Program in Florida’s fields — educating workers about their rights, investigating complaints, and identifying and eliminating bad actors and bad practices — so that today we can stand behind the fair conditions and effective monitoring process that this label represents.”

The label originated with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Campaign for Fair Food, which began in a church meeting room when a handful of Immokalee tomato pickers, historically among the nation’s lowest-paid workers, began discussing how to improve their lot. They aimed to raise wages by a penny per pound and clean up labor conditions in the fields, which were plagued by wage theft, sexual harassment and modern-day slavery.

Twenty-one years later, Wal-Mart, Burger King, McDonald’s and Yum Brands which includes Taco Bell, along with many of the world’s largest food service corporations, are now paying the bonus. Thanks to the extra penny, workers who once made 50 cents for every 32-pound bucket have seen that rise to 82 cents, which can boost annual earnings from around $10,000 to more than $16,000. Other innovations include a cooperative complaint resolution system, health and safety programs, and worker-to-worker education.

Whole Foods stores and Compass Brands, an institutional food provider, will be the first program members to display the label, which will be available to all participating companies.

It’s the latest accomplishment in what’s been an extraordinary year for the grassroots nonprofit.

In April, the documentary “Food Chains,” about the group, sold out its first U.S. screening at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, the same week the coalition’s work was front-page news in The New York Times.

In July, the coalition received a Freedom medal from the Roosevelt Institute, joining a list of luminaries that includes Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Tom Brokaw and U.S. Presidents Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

CIW Co-founders Greg Asbed and Lucas Benitez accept the Clinton Global Citizen Award from Food Chains Executive Producer Eva Longoria

Last month, Clinton gave the group the Clinton Global Citizen Award, calling its work “the most astonishing thing politically happening in the world we’re living in today.”

And next month, “Food Chains,” produced by actress and activist Eva Longoria, will be released to theaters nationally, including the Prado Stadium 12 in Bonita Springs.

Meanwhile, the coalition continues its high-profile campaign to try to persuade other companies to sign onto the Fair Food program, including Publix, which has refused to join.

“Our position has not changed,” wrote spokesman Brian West in an email. “We are aware that the label was released (but) at this point, we have not spoken with any of our suppliers that may support the effort.”

The label’s exciting release was not only noted in Southwest Florida, but was also taken up by the Columbus Dispatch — Wendy’s hometown paper — as well as the national online hub for progressive news,  Centered on an excellent interview with CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo, the article hailed the label as an important new guide for consumers at large, who are paying more and more attention to the conditions of workers in the food system:

Take_PartYou’ll Soon Be Able to Tell If Your Tomatoes Were Picked by Empowered, Well-Paid Workers

October 24, 2014

The Fair Food Program says its label will assure consumers their produce is labor-friendly.

We have labels that tell us how our food is grown and where our food is grown, but until recently, who picked the produce we buy hasn’t figured prominently. Thanks to an expanding conversation about farm labor, there are now more cues designed to guide consumers to produce that was harvested by workers who are paid well and treated ethically.

Today, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker group that has radically reformed the Florida tomato industry over the last 13 years, introduced its own consumer label for its Fair Food Program. […]

[…] “We think that with this label, consumers will continue to deepen their involvement in the campaign for fair food,” Lupe Gonzalo, a CIW member and farmworker, said in Spanish, speaking through an interpreter, during a phone interview Friday. “Often when consumers go to the store, they’re not sure where their food is coming from, but now people are going to be able to know which tomatoes were produced in dignified working conditions.”

The group has made huge strides over the past decade, though it’s still pushing both Wendy’s and Florida-based supermarket chain Publix to join the program. Although the label may introduce a new swath of people to the Fair Food Program for the first time, Gonzalo says that for her and her fellow workers, having a voice in the fields in far more important than recognition from consumers.

“Workers who have been here for years—for 20 years, for 30 years—they’ve seen the changes in the fields themselves, and that’s where the pride comes from,” she said. “It comes from being able to experience the difference in working in the fields even just five years ago versus now.”

“We want to make sure people understand that there is a crippling poverty that plagues the fields in this country, but that’s changing,” Gonzalo added. “We are changing that reality, and it is being changed by farmworkers ourselves.”

One of the highlights of the Food Day label debut was the annual #FoodDayChat on Twitter, when dozens of organizations and individuals gather on Twitter to have a conversation about the most pressing issues in the movement for a sustainable, healthy, and fair food system.  Hundreds of social media users seized the moment to spread the word about about the Fair Food Program by sharing the label with their networks across both Twitter and Facebook.

Here are just a few of the highlights from the first hour of the Food Day Chat, which was dedicated to the challenges facing food workers:

We were especially grateful and humbled to get a shoutout from Nobel Peace Prize Winners Goodweave:

Fair Food allies — including star chef Jose Duarte and longtime food movement leader Frances Moore Lappé — also took the opportunity of the Food Day Chat to pose the question: Why wouldn’t Publix and Wendy’s want to have such a label in their stores?

There was much, much more on the new label from the worlds of traditional and social media, but that’s going to have to be a wrap for now!  A huge thanks to everyone who joined in to help launch the Fair Food label and take part in this historic turning point in the life of the Program.  Check back soon for even more exciting developments for the Fair Food Program, and updates on the Food Chains documentary in the final home stretch before its release on November 21st…