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Recipe for Change: A Campaign for Fair Tomatoes

120717-tomatoes
Photo by Flickr user  burgundavia

One of my favorite vegetables — debatably fruits — is the tomato, and the hot months of July and August make no better time to enjoy the tomato’s perfectly sweet and juicy taste. 

In March 2011, I ventured down to Immokalee, FL for the first time with a group of 11 other Georgetown students to learn about migrant laborers who work long, hot hours in tomato fields so that we can enjoy these large red staples of our diets. What I learned in my week in Immokalee shocked me.

 

Historically, farm workers have been some of the most poorly treated, ignored, and oppressed members of American society. Although working and living conditions for farm workers have improved in past decades, the farm worker population remains one of our country’s most vulnerable groups.  The Bread for the World Institute made farm workers and immigration policy a main focus of its 2012 Hunger Report, explaining that while the poverty rate of farm worker families has decreased over the past 15 years, it is still more than double that of wage and salary employees as a group, and it’s higher than that of any other general occupation.

When I went to Immokalee, FL, we met with members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a “community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian, and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida.”  CIW and its partners target major corporate buyers of tomatoes, who have the ability to demand the lowest possible prices from suppliers. Those suppliers, in turn, squeeze wages and make working conditions for farm workers even worse. In the past 20 years, CIW has become a nationally-known and honored organization which has achieved major advances for farm workers, especially by engaging us consumers who buy tomatoes on a daily basis, usually without much thought at all. 

With the average consumer in mind, this summer, the International Justice Mission (IJM), a faith-based human rights organization and a Bread for the World partner, launched a new campaign in partnership with CIW.  IJM’s new campaign, Recipe for Change, seeks to encourage supermarket giants like Wal-Mart, Publix, Kroger, and Ahold (parent company of Giant and Stop & Shop) to join CIW’s Fair Food Program, which helps forge a “structural, sustainable solution to a human rights crisis” in Florida’s tomato fields.  

You can be a part of Recipe for Change and CIW’s larger Campaign for Fair Food by taking action today. Visit their website to find out how you can

Bread for the World is proud to support IJM and CIW’s work to ensure a just livelihood for farm workers and their families.  To learn more about CIW’s history, I strongly encourage you to read “David in the Fields: A Dialogue on Overcoming Hunger and Poverty” by Andrew Wainer, Bread for the World Institute’s senior immigration policy analyst.  

Marya-pulaskiMarya Pulaski is the grassroots organizing intern at Bread for the World.

 


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