Blog: 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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On Friday, the New York Times devoted front-page space to the amazing progress that our longtime partners the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has made toward fair treatment of farmworkers.

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.

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.

Bon Appétit believes that making a difference in the lives of others—one that pays dividends long past the holiday season — is the best gift we can give. This year’s beneficiary is the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA).

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Strong local and regional food systems can lead to strong local economies and opportunities for people who are often left behind by traditional economic development. But it takes a while to build these systems. Bon Appétit was proud to cater a recent breakfast fundraiser for the Grow a Farmer Fund at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, which raised $4,270 for Latino farmers who want to raise free-range chickens in rural Minnesota.

Last week, two elderly farmworkers took the brave and very unusual step of suing their employer, an onion grower in the Coachella Valley, for violating the few labor laws that protect farmworkers. California is one of the few states that require farmworkers to be paid the minimum wage. Farmworkers are exempt from many federal labor laws. These gaps were detailed in the Inventory of Farmworker Issues and Protections in the United States. We’ve created a new, educational slideshow based on key facts and statistics from the Inventory for educational purposes.