Celebrating Farmworker Awareness Week, March 24 – 31

What do strawberries, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes have in common? All three of these crops are handpicked by farmworkers. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have known the answer to that question, but as a Fellow for Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation, I have learned that some of the injustices of our food system begin even before the food is ripe.

National Farmworker Awareness Week, hosted by the Student Action for Farmworkers (SAF) and cosponsored by Bon Appétit Management Company, is quickly approaching. March 24-31 is a week dedicated to raising awareness about farmworkers and the conditions they face as participants in a food system focused on keeping prices lower at any cost. “Awareness” is a very fitting word in this situation, because before farmworkers can be treated respectfully, paid decently, or protected from the horrors of pesticide exposure, the American public first needs to be aware of the people who pick our food.

I am proud that, as a pioneer in sustainable food service, Bon Appétit took steps to address farm labor issues as soon as we became aware of the atrocious conditions and lack of protections that farmworkers face in this country. In the last few years, we have worked with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve working conditions for tomato pickers in Florida; collaborated with United Farm Workers of America, with support from Oxfam America, to release a groundbreaking report on farm labor; and our foundation hosted the TEDx Fruitvale conference, providing a 360-degree view of farmworkers today and throughout history. We are also a proud partner of the Equitable Food Initiative, which seeks to develop standards, training processes, and certification to protect farmworkers and produce safer, healthier food​.

For this year’s National Farmworker Awareness Week, Bon Appétit cafés across the country will guide guests to the resources linked above, encourage them to share their thoughts on a collage, and promote Food Chains, a forthcoming documentary that digs deep into the injustices against farmworkers across America, hits the road with student protesters and hunger strikers, and prods supermarkets and consumers to take action. The film is directed by Sanjay Rawal, one of our TEDxFruitvale speakers, and features Eric Schlosser, Barry Estabrook, and leaders from the CIW in addition to many farmworker voices and advocates. Everyone is encouraged to ‘Like’ the film’s Facebook page to help build buzz, stay informed, and show that consumers do care about the people who pick their food.

Watch the trailer for Food Chains:

How else can you be part of Farmworker Awareness Week? Here are some ideas:

  • Learn more about farmworkers and encourage those around you to do the same. (The links above will lead to loads of interesting information, videos, and other resources.)
  • ‘Like’ Farmworker Awareness Week on Facebook!
  • Participate in SAF’s Instagram competition, by following SAF on Instagram and Twitter @harvestdignity. Publish a photo in response to their daily prompts during Farmworker Awareness Week with the hashtag #faw2013 and hashtag of the day for a chance to win a prize pack. If you’re taking the photo in a Bon Appétit café, make sure to include us, too! @bamco