These workers are at the heart of our food system.
by Fiona Ruddy
On September 28, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules to protect farmworkers from on-the-job exposure to hazardous pesticides. These long overdue rules help protect the workers most at risk from these toxic chemicals in our fields. The new regulations, adding essential protections for farm workers, are a small win in the larger efforts to value and protect the 2 million Americans who grow the food we eat—the food that makes us thrive.
In Our Work Is Life, the Real Food Media Contest’s 2015 winner for best underreported issue, viewers meet some of these workers at the heart of our food system. As one worker says: “The work we’re doing is life—the life of the entire country.” The film tells the story of farm workers in the Northwest who pick berries that can be found throughout our food chain, from Häagen-Dazs ice cream to Driscoll’s distribution to big box grocery chains.
Coming together to voice their concerns for better working conditions, these farm workers created Familias Unidas Por La Justicia (Families United for Justice). To take action, Familias Unidas launched a boycott against Sakumas Brothers Berry, a company they charge is paying poverty wages and perpetuating substandard, openly hostile working conditions. The film is ultimately a rallying cry for all of us—whether we’re digging into a pint of delicious ice cream or devouring berries by the handful—to think about the workers who helped bring those berries to us and find out what we can do to speak up for their dignity.
For more information about the hands that feed us and ways to support farmworkers, please visit voicesofthefoodchain.com.
This piece is part of a series in partnership with Food & Wine Magazine.