Movie Review: Food Chains

When I saw that Real Food ASU was hosting a screening of the movie Food Chains this month, I immediately put it on my calendar. This movie played in Phoenix in January (I think?), but I was unable to make it, so I was thrilled to have a second chance.

The film tells the story of (mostly immigrant) farmworkers in the United States. It focuses on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a group of farmworkers in Florida who have successfully fought for higher pay and better working conditions on the farm. They started advocating for higher pay from farm owners, but quickly realized that the real problem lay further up the food chain – with retailers and dining establishments. Undeterred, the members of the CIW took on the industry and, amazingly, have won quite a few victories. Farms participating in the CIW’s Fair Food Program are monitored for humane working conditions and offer fair pay for labor. The CIW has also uncovered and fought against modern-day slavery.

Nonetheless, the laboring conditions of most of the people who grow and pick our food is appalling. One worker talks about how it’s so hot in the growing months in Florida that the workers would relish the time that the pesticides were sprayed on them, because it was the only cool breeze they experienced all day. There are often sexual assaults and labor violations, largely unreported because the many undocumented workers fear being fired or, worse, deported. The hours worked vs. pay received equation is grossly unbalanced. As an example, one widely-publicized CIW victory was that of “one penny per pound” more pay – an increase that DOUBLED wages for tomato pickers. Notably, the Publix supermarket chain in Florida has been unwilling to meet with CIW representation or take part in the Fair Food Campaign to increase farmworker pay.

The film focuses on both victories and defeats. More broadly, it sheds light on the working conditions on America’s farms. Agriculture is one of those industries where we are content to exploit undocumented immigrants because we can get away with low wages and horrible treatment, all while singing the rhetoric of immigration reform (and deporting most who dare to challenge this system which works so well for us). If you eat, you should see this film.

Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

I have written once before about food waste, and when I saw this video I wanted to highlight it since it tackles the same issue. Supermarkets around the world set standards for “food quality” which include appearance. Even if a piece of produce is as tasty and nutritious as can be, it is discarded when it doesn’t meet certain specifications for size, color, or shape. I love to see that the EU declared 2014 the European Year Against Food Waste! I also love that supermarkets are selling “ugly” produce at a lower price, that consumers are embracing it, and that farmers are making a profit off of items that would otherwise have been thrown away. Bravo!

Using Poetry to Raise Awareness about Diabetes

NPR recently published a story about young people in California using poetry and spoken word to raise awareness about diabetes in their families. Some of the statistics the article mentions surprised me: Did you know that half of African-American youths born in the year 2000 are expected to develop Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives?

I love to see public health campaigns that push the envelope and tackle issues in ways that aren’t part of the traditional tactics. This campaign does just that. Watch a few of the poems below.

Childhood Obesity in Reverse

Hi friends! I know I haven’t posted in quite some time, but I came across this video and had to share. It shows the journey of Jim, a 32-year-old suffering from a heart attack, but in reverse. It’s so relevant in our current climate of childhood obesity, but the story doesn’t stop there. It shows the results of Jim’s bad habits carrying forth into adulthood. Enjoy!

“Hunger Can Be a Positive Motivator”

A few weeks ago, I attended the Association of Arizona Food Banks‘ annual conference. They showed a video in which Stephen Colbert does his thing in response to a 2009 comment by then-Missouri state representative Cynthia Davis. I had never seen it before and it is just too good not to share. Unfortunately, WordPress does not support embedding from non-specified sites, so you’ll have to click this link to see the video. Believe me – it is worth it!

Update: Some people have had trouble viewing the video using the link above. Here is another link, on YouTube – it should work!