CIW honored with 2016 Leadership Award by James Beard Foundation at moving ceremony in NYC!

The CIW’s Lucas Benitez and Greg Asbed (third from right and far right, respectively) join their fellow Leadership Award honorees, from left, John Boyd Jr (President, National Black Farmers Association), Rep. Jim McGovern (Congressman, Massachusetts), Anna Lappe (Founder, Small Planet Institute), and Raj Patel (author, activist, academic). James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro (third from left) joins the honorees.  Photo by Clay Williams.

Last week, at a spectacular ceremony in New York City’s historic Hearst Tower, the James Beard Foundation presented its prestigious 2016 Leadership Award to the CIW for its “innovative work in forging a new human rights model in the food industry supply chain.”  The CIW had the honor of being introduced by human rights leader Kerry Kennedy, and joined an illustrious line-up of fellow awardees that included longtime CIW allies Raj Patel and Anna Lappè. 

In accepting the award, Lucas Benitez and Greg Asbed spoke of the massive collective effort necessary to build the Fair Food Movement and of the new model for protecting human rights in corporate supply chains known as Worker-driven Social Responsibility.  Here below are some excerpts from their comments:


Lucas Benitez: We would like to thank the James Beard Foundation for this tremendous — and tremendously humbling — honor.

Of course, you see us here on the stage tonight because someone has to receive the award and this stage doesn’t fit the scores of colleagues with whom we work each and every day to build and run the Campaign for Fair Food and the Fair Food Program, not to mention the thousands of CIW members who have fought for over two decades for their own fundamental human rights, or the tens of thousands of consumers who have stood shoulder to shoulder with farmworkers in the long and often frustrating battle for those rights.

And make no mistake, this award goes to each and every one of them — of us — who have sacrificed so much in building what is today a new model for protecting and advancing human rights for workers in corporate supply chains, not just in agriculture and the food industry, but everywhere where low-wage workers toil in brutal conditions and receive sub-poverty wages making products for brands that earn billions selling those products to consumers…

Greg Asbed: … The Fair Food Program is just that, a new paradigm in the world of human rights and social responsibility.  It is unique, and uniquely successful, for two key reasons — first, because workers, the very workers whose rights are in question, participate on each and every level of the program, from drafting the code of conduct to monitoring compliance with the code every day in the fields; and second, because the Fair Food Program is what we like to call “enforcement obsessed”, with multiple layers of monitoring and meaningful market consequences for growers who violate the code and refuse to correct those violations, it is designed to achieve not just the enforcement of human rights in the breach, but the prevention of human rights violations altogether.

This new paradigm is changing workers’ lives in the fields every day, workers whose long under-valued labor puts food on our tables every day.  And more than that, it is coming to an industry near you…

So, thank you for this award on behalf of all the thousands of people who have fought to make the Fair Food Program a reality, and we promise to keep making you proud as you watch this exciting new paradigm for protecting human rights in the 21st century continue to grow in the years ahead.

Earlier in the day, Lucas and Greg also participated in the Seventh Annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference, “Now Trending: The Making of a Food Movement”.   You can read all about the star-studded line-up for the thought-provoking conference here, but for now, here below is an excerpt from the livestream of the CIW’s panel, “Inspiration: What We Can Learn from Social Movements”:

All in all, it was an exciting day and an unforgettable evening for the CIW, a gathering that highlighted the growing union of the food justice sector with the broader food movement that holds untold promise for the future of food.  We are beyond proud to be honored with so many great friends and leaders, and extremely grateful to the James Beard Foundation for including us in such a wonderful event.