Blog: Food justice

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For this year’s National Farmworker Awareness Week, Bon Appétit will be featuring a “Faces of Farmworkers” display in hundreds of cafés across the country and via social media, highlighting portraits and quotes gathered in the fields by Student Action with Farmworkers.

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As this year’s Farmworker Awareness Week approaches, hundreds of Bon Appétit cafés around the country are preparing to spread the word about how few pennies per pound farmworkers earn for commonly picked produce items, and 20 locations are hosting a screening of the documentary Food Chains.

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A group of Wesleyan University students who’d immersed themselves in farm labor issues and food deserts visited Urban Oaks Organic Farm. Just 13 miles away from campus, they got to learn about these issues firsthand — and see where some of the fruits and vegetables they eat every day on campus are grown.

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After growing up in Nebraska, the land of corn and cattle, I didn’t hear the term “sustainability” until I enrolled at Willamette University in Salem, OR, in 2006. And not until my sophomore year did I really connect the need for sustainability to the food system.

Proud as I am of Bon Appétit’s contribution to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ cause, I’ve long wanted to help in a more personal way. So when Cheryl Queen, vice president of communication and corporate affairs for Compass Group USA, said she was going to accompany them for two days of the two-week march, I immediately said, “I’ll go with you!” with great enthusiasm and not much thought.

When our chefs at Reed and Lewis & Clark Colleges first sat down with Ava Mikolavich from Urban Gleaners to discuss a food recovery program they were skeptical of how much food they could actually donate. Yet since April, the two cafés have donated a total of more than 5,000 pounds of food!

Still, as Dani Turk from the hunger relief organization Food Life Line once said, “Though it may seem like nothing, one piece of lasagna is still a dinner for a person in need.” So in April, the two schools began donating leftover food that would otherwise go to waste to Urban Gleaners.