“This is not a film about oppression, it’s actually a film about transformation”…

[hupso title=”‘This is not a film about oppression, it’s actually a film about transformation’ – @EvaLongoria @Chrislhayes” url=”https://ciw-online.org/blog/2014/11/food-chains-media/”]


MSNBC, Washington Post and many, many more national media weigh in on “Food Chains” and the movement for Fair Food!

The day has finally arrived, and “Food Chains” hits theaters in major cities around the country today.  Ahead of its release, major media outlets have been turning their attention to the film and to the Fair Food movement that is its subject.  

The MSNBC interview above is yet another great look at the CIW’s Fair Food Program through the eyes of “Food Chains” Executive Producer Eva Longoria.  Check out the excerpt above, and watch the full 7-minute interview at the MSNBC website here.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post ran a long look at “Food Chains” around an interview with the CIW’s Gerardo Reyes.   Here’s an excerpt:


It’s been 10 years since the Morgan Spurlock documentary “Super Size Me ” challenged people to think about what goes into a meal at McDonald’s. We’ve never been able to look at chicken nuggets quite the same way.

The 2009 documentary “Food Inc. ,” showing how food is produced, was similarly revolutionary, contributing to a food culture awash in buzzwords: Organic, fair trade, GMO-free, gluten-free, cage-free, grass fed, free range, conflict-free, ethically sourced.

Now, a new documentary, produced by Eva Longoria and “Fast Food Nation ” author Eric Schlosser, narrated by Forest Whitaker, wants to focus America’s fixation with food on the people responsible for getting it to us in the first place: farmworkers.

Food Chains ” largely centers on the dispute between Immokalee, Fla., tomato pickers and the Publix supermarket chain. At issue is a years-long standoff between the grocer and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), which began the Fair Food Program. The film follows farmworkers through a six-day public hunger strike, staged at Publix headquarters, while explaining the impetus for the action.

The Fair Food Program is a voluntary initiative, seeking to eliminate many of the same problems that United Farm Workers of America co-founder Cesar Chavez spent his life fighting: wage theft, sexual harassment and assault in the fields, pesticide poisoning and what was effectively modern-day slavery…


… “What we bring with the Fair Food Program is not another model of corporate social responsibility…” Chavez (above, left) said. “The goal is to address human rights and labor rights that exist in the fields. The creation of the program comes directly from the participation of the workers in the program and the ideas of our community. That’s what we call worker-led social responsibility.”

Even the international press is getting in on the action.  Here, below, is an excerpt from the UK-based Sustainable Food Trust’s interview with “Food Chains” director Sanjay Rawal (which you can check out in its entirety here):


Bringing justice to America’s food

November 13, 2014 6:46 pm


Executively produced by Eva Longoria, Eric Schlosser and Abigail Disney, Food Chains is a ground-breaking, new documentary exposing the rampant abuses of American farm labourers.

Told through the narrative of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), an intrepid group of tomato pickers in Florida who are battling the 5 trillion dollar global supermarket industry – and winning, the film aims to expose the businesses responsible.

We interviewed Sanjay Rawal, the Director of Food Chains, about the situation for farm workers in the US.

Most people have no idea that they are connected to this system, how did the plight of farm workers come on to your radar?

I was raised in an agricultural family. My father, Dr Kanti Rawal, was a tomato geneticist for Del Monte in California and I spent my summers on farms in the Central Valley. He and I actually had a small tomato genetics conference together and when I was at a tomato conference in Florida in 2011, it all hit home to me. I was reading a book Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook about the exploitation that existed then in the Florida tomato industry and was shocked that I hadn’t heard of it. At the same time, I was excited because the industry was beginning a rapid transformation, led by a group of workers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and a few very conscious farmers. Now, dare I say, the Florida tomato industry is the most progressive sector in agriculture in the United States.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing farm workers in the US? How does this compare to the situation globally?

Food Chains

It’s incomprehensible that in most states in the US, farmworkers have no way to report abuse. In an environment where abuses can go unchecked, exploitation is rampant. The CIW’s Fair Food Programhas addressed this in the Florida tomato industry. Firstly, workers are trained in what their rights are. At the same time, farmers are required to implement a Code of Conduct and if they don’t, they’re barred from selling their tomatoes to 12 of the largest buyers in the world like Walmart and McDonalds.

Globally, the situation for farm workers is abysmal. In the US, farm workers might be treated worse than other workers and face low pay and poor working conditions, but farm workers globally face a much worse fate. In Mexico, for example, which supplies the US with a large proportion of our produce, workers are routinely underpaid, robbed of wages and treated horrifically. […]

[…] What are your hopes for this film and what do you see as the next steps?

I’m hoping that this film can help amplify the CIW’s existing Campaign for Fair Food and pressure retailers to join the programme. We need folks to see the film and then join the movement. Please visit www.foodchainsfilm.com for theatre info and showtimes.

What advice or action should individuals take or do to support a fair wage for farm workers?

Once the CIW’s Fair Food Program becomes ubiquitous, the flood gate will open for workers in other industries. People should join their Campaign for Fair Food… 

read full interview

Next up, the Miami News Times weighs in with a critical look at the film’s other protagonist, Publix:


Food Chains Tells the Story of Florida Workers, Makes Publix Look Terrible


Floridians love Publix: the friendly staff, the bakery, the subs (seriously, the subs). To many of us, the grocery chain is one of the greatest things to have ever been exported from the state.

The store “Where shopping is a pleasure,” however, is not such a pleasure to supply. For more than a decade, farm groups like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) have been staging protests against Publix, asking for just one additional penny per pound of tomatoes to help put an end to the exploitation of workers — ironic, considering the store is hailed as being good to its employees (this year it ranked 104 on the Fortune 500 list).

Food Chains produced by Eva Longoria, Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation and Food Inc.), Smriti Keshari, Hamilton Fish, and director Sanjay Rawal is outing Publix while illustrating the plight of farm workers across the United States.

Tracking the tale of journalist Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, Food Chains explores the everyday abuse that takes place in the agricultural industry. […]

[…] In Florida, workers are no longer held in bondage (at least not as often) and women are safer, because they now have a voice. The CIW has been able to curb the abuse in two ways: an additional penny per pound of tomatoes to increase workers’ wages, and a code of conduct on the retailers’ end, called the Fair Food Program, to ensure retailers won’t buy from farms with human rights violations.

It’s actually this narrative of change that prompted producers to make the film. “We followed the stories in Barry’s [Estabrook] book and spoke with everyone involved,” says Keshari. “We heard the stories of exploitation, and when it came to a solution, it really pointed to the CIW.”

While the CIW first targeted farmers with their actions, the coalition quickly learned that they have it nearly as rough as the workers; the cost of farming has risen dramatically over the past 30 years, yet the market cost for tomatoes has remained the same, drastically cutting into farmers profits. The group refocused its efforts up the chain, to the retail and consumer end of the spectrum.

In other agricultural areas and fields, the situation is actually worse than the tomato industry these days. Even so, there’s still a long way to go for Florida’s tomato pickers. The average picker brings homes less than $12,000 a year — supermarkets are a $4 trillion a year industry. That’s where the additional penny per pound comes in.

Since the Fair Foods program started, $15 million has been paid in premiums to workers, 600 workers have complained about unfair workplace situations, and 100,000 have received materials on their rights. “It’s really unique,” says Keshari. “It gives a partnership between every entity in food production.”

And it’s working. Fast-food restaurants and grocery chains, ranging from McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King to Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart, and Whole Foods Market (which is also releasing a Fair Food label in the coming weeks) have signed onto the program. Still, after protests and hunger strikes in front of its Lakeland headquarters, Publix is unrelenting to activists request for them to join the Fair Foods program — you really look bad when Wal-Mart has got you beat.  […]

[…] Smriti and her co-producers are really hoping that viewers are inspired and prompted to take action after watching Food Chains. “In Florida, what’s incredible is that it’s a story of change, and a solution that’s happening,” says Smriti. “We’re able to eradicate these abuses. In the past four years, it has been transformed into the most progressive state in agriculture.”

We may have Rick Scott for another four years and we may not have medical weed — but hey, leading the way in other ways. Publix, it’s time to get it together, and do the right thing.

read more

And finally, the CIW’s Greg Asbed penned an op/ed with “Food Chains” Executive Producer Eva Longoria that, though written around the time of the Clinton Global Citizen Award back in September, was just published this week in the Huffington Post and still reads pretty well.  Here’s an excerpt:


The Secret Life of Fruit: Five Startling Things Your Grocer Won’t Tell You


Not too long ago, the main concern customers had about a fruit or vegetable was whether or not it was ripe. But over time, their questions about produce have grown increasingly sophisticated: Is this tomato local? Are these peaches organic? And grocers have been gleefully riding the wave, touting products that are free of pesticides and genetic modification.

The 21st-century customer knows more than ever about which farmers are good to the environment and good for the health of shoppers. But there’s one thing that promo ads won’t tell you: whether farmers are good to their employees.

With only a few exceptions, you will never see U.S. produce promoted for the ethical treatment — or the health and safety — of the farmworkers who harvest the food we eat every day. Why? Because farm labor conditions are deplorable almost everywhere fruits and vegetables are grown, and most supermarket chains aren’t doing a thing to help make them better (with Whole Foods, Walmart, and Trader Joe’s being the exceptions when it comes to Florida tomatoes — more on that below)…

… 3. The Florida tomato industry is the exception to Things 1 and Thing 2.

This is thanks to an innovative new partnership between workers, growers and retailers called the Fair Food Program.The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program is a unique model for social responsibility based on a groundbreaking partnership among farmers, farmworkers and retail food companies like Subway, Whole Foods and Walmart. The Fair Food Program ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. It harnesses the power of consumers to secure binding agreements with retail food giants that require those companies to: 1) pay a small premium that is passed on to the workers in the form of a line item bonus on their regular paychecks, and 2) only buy from growers who comply with a rigorous, human rights-based code of conduct, giving farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives and eliminating the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture for generations. The Program has proven so successful that sexual assaults in the field, endemic in agriculture throughout the country, have now been eliminated on Fair Food farms… read more

But the list of stories on the film and on the Fair Food Program is truly too long to excerpt them all, so here’s a compilation of still more coverage:

 So now that you’ve read everything there is to read on “Food Chains,” there’s only one thing left to do — Get out there and see the film!