Learn more about the efforts to fix our broken food system

What is the government doing to help fix our broken food system?

What’s the Fair Food Program? How does it work?

Launched in 2011 by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Fair Food Program (FFP) is a unique and groundbreaking model for social responsibility that encompasses partnerships among farmworkers, growers, and retail food companies to ensure dignified wages and humane working conditions for those who feed our families.

In 2001, CIW launched its Fair Food campaign to address the inhumane, abusive conditions and stagnant wages that farmworkers had been subjected to for generations. Some of those conditions the CIW uncovered included modern-day slavery practices. The campaign  pressured retail food giants  at the top of the supply chain to use their market power to make change. It worked: in 2011, over 90% of Florida tomato production agreed to implement the Fair Food Code of Conduct on their farms. Since then, the FFP has brought on more major retailers, expanded to 10 U.S. states and three countries, and far beyond tomatoes. It has served as a model for workers elsewhere in the food industry, such as Vermont’s Milk with Dignity Program.

In 2010, CIW became the first domestic organization to receive the US State Department’s Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery Award. In 2015, the Coalition was awarded a Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking. Additionally, CIW was rewarded James Beard Award; Harvard Business Review’s list of 15 “most important social impact success stories of the past century.” The FFP is audited and monitored by the Fair Food Standards Council, an independent body that oversees the implementation of FFP. Learn more and support the CIW’s efforts.

What is the H-2A, or “Guestworker,” Program?

The H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers program is a temporary visa granted to foreign nationals to work in the United States once employers meet specific regulatory requirements. The program was first launched in 1942 in response to labor shortages as a result of World War II. It was then known as the “Bracero Program.”

The employer is required to make the case that there aren’t enough U.S. workers who are qualified and able to fill the need. The H-2A program exploits agricultural workers by creating deep power imbalances between employers and workers, and the fact that once here, guestworkers are unable to change employers.

How has consolidation in the U.S. food supply chain weakened our food system?

Consolidation in the food supply chain is a major factor in price gouging, shortages, and worker exploitation. At these levels of concentration, corporations are able to abuse their market power to fix prices and avoid competition. Consolidation also makes for a fragile supply chain. As an example, the 2022 baby formula crisis stemmed from the temporary closure of a single facility in Michigan. The closure of the factory — which resulted in a 43% reduction of baby formula on U.S. shelves — had devastating consequences for millions of families.

Part of the problem is the government’s failure to enforce antitrust laws, which were created to protect consumers, producers, ranchers, and farmers from the dangers of monopoly and consolidation. Recently, Kroger and Albertsons have announced a merger agreement. Under the terms of the merger agreement, Kroger is to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Albertsons Companies, Inc. Today some of the top food retail companies, including Walmart, Kroger, Costco, and Ahold Delhaize, account for about half of the market in the United States. Kroger has yet to join the Fair Food Program.

What was the premise Of Food, Inc.? Where can I watch it?

The groundbreaking Oscar®-nominated documentary Food, Inc. was released in 2008. The documentary ignited a cultural conversation about the handful of multinational corporations that control our food system at enormous cost to our planet, workforce, and health. The film garnered numerous accolades including an Academy Award® Nomination and two Emmy® Awards.

Food, Inc. is available on Amazon Prime. Its companion book, Food, Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It, became #1 New York Times bestseller and was translated into 33 languages. A companion book to the sequel, Food, Inc. 2: Inside the Quest for a Better Future for Food, is available for presale.