Saturday, October 24, 2015

Food system work; the workers' perspective

I had thought it might be fun to post some recipes or the like on US Food Day, today, as a festive wrap-up to this blogging novena. But I've been ignoring a central issue, the state of workers in our food system. I've collected quite a few links. Here they are, along with a few comments.

Here in Sonoma County, the social equity team of the Food System Alliance had intended to work with the Health Dept in promoting, reflecting on and following up with a wellness survey of farmworkers. But as these bureaucratic things go, the project took forever. A summary of research done almost two years ago was finally posted this week.
Perhaps because of the scale of most agriculture here, or perhaps because of the skills needed in some aspects of viticulture, we have a permanent farm labor force. But most are struggling to support families on under $30000 per year, when the cost of living well for a family of four is usually estimated in the $50,000+ range. And housing costs are escalating, with pressure on rents from the many who can't afford to buy and the recent relocation of people displaced by fire in Lake County.
There are many links from the press release above, but this one may be the clearest presentaion of the key findings.

When I attended a brainstorming session for the Generation Food Project in late September, I sat next to a woman who is a leader in the Fight for $15.  A single mother employed by McDonald's in Richmond, CA, she works an additional job to put food on the table, but with a low income and little time to cook realizes she is not providing better, healthful choices for her family. All she - and thousands of others - want is $15/hour and a union.

I listened to a bit of the James Beard Foundation conference this week and learned about ROC United. There are 10 million restaurant workers in this country, and those eligible for tips have an hourly wage at about the level of the general minimum wage when I was in college - and oh dear, I am going to have to say it - roughly 50 years ago. You can read about ROC's work here: You can also get an app which will let you know which restaurants are doing right by their employees. And if your haunts aren't, there is coaching available to help you let them know that you value such practices as paid sick days and internal advancement opportunities as well as fair pay.

Finally (whew!) we need a stronger movement for domestic fair trade. It's not enough with the coffee, tea and chocolate! If you scroll down in this newsletter you can read all about work afoot in the northeastern US.
The Domestic Fair Trade Association has lots of information on their website about the marriage of international fair trade and the organic movement in "promoting health, justice and sustainability."

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