Did you know that there are over 1.2 million farm workers in this country? They pick much of the produce we eat every day by hand. Strawberries, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers… these fruits and vegetables cannot be picked by machines. And unfortunately, so many of these workers are subjected to terrible abuse. Stolen wages, sexual assault, beatings, and worse.
The good news is that there is a solution. One that was founded by the farm workers themselves. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in fighting human trafficking and gender-based violence at work. The CIW is also recognized for pioneering the design and development of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility paradigm, a worker-led, market-enforced approach to the protection of human rights in corporate supply chains.
In 2011, the CIW created the Fair Food Program (FFP). The FFP is a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and food companies that safeguards humane wages and working conditions for the people who feed our families. Many retailers have signed on to participate, including Whole Foods, Walmart, and Ahold.
In April of 2022, I had the unique opportunity to visit the CIW/FFP team in person. The experience was life-changing. While their work is incredibly challenging, they are incredibly optimistic and hopeful about the future. “The consumer,” they kept repeating. “The consumer has the power.”
I am proud that our company, Soupergirl, is the first consumer packaged goods firm to obtain a Fair Food certification, just for our tomato gazpacho line. Our certification is limited, for now, and must represent the beginning of something bigger. We hope that more companies like us join this incredible program.
What can you do as a consumer? First, learn about the incredible work that the Fair Food Program is doing, every single day. The FFP has been praised for its unique effectiveness in preventing forced labor, sexual assault, and other horrible violations–by the same law enforcement agencies that prosecute these very offenses. It even received a Presidential Medal from the Obama-Biden administration.
Then, speak with your dollars. Look to see if your favorite retailer supports the Fair Food Program. If not, fire up your email and ask them to join. There is more information available here. But don’t stop there. Call your favorite salsa company. Demand answers from your juice company. Does your favorite brand claim to have a responsible supply chain? Ask them why they aren’t working with the Fair Food Program. Email them. Write letters. Call. And don’t let up until they commit to doing the right thing for our farm workers.
Please view our press release here!
Sara Polon (Soupergirl), Co-Founder and CEO, has the attention span of a gnat. Therefore, her post-college career path took many meandering twists and turns including working at an Internet start up, leading tours through the Middle East, and several years as a stand-up comic in New York.
In 2008, after reading Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, she founded Soupergirl along with her mom, Marilyn Polon. Sara is passionate about upending the industrialization of our food system. She believes deeply that consumers can make food choices that better themselves as well as the world. She drinks an average of five cups of coffee a day - usually black. In her spare time she enjoys biking, hiking, hanging out with her nieces, and drinking even more coffee.