Big Food, Big Ag, Big Org(anic), and Big Business have all convinced us that the “American Food System” is a wonderful thing to be maintained at all costs.
Maintained on the backs of farmworkers and meat processing workers, our food system delivers cheap strawberries from California, Mexico, and Chile year ‘round, and chicken nuggets and hamburgers by the barrel full.
The splendor of the food – abundant, cheap food – on our tables day after day requires the labor of thousands of “invisible” workers – mostly immigrants, refugees, and other people of color who are vulnerable to abuse.
Meat processing jobs are some of the most dangerous in the country and conditions have deteriorated over the last 20 years as a result of consolidation and an increasing focus on the bottom line. Workers continue to be poorly paid and struggle in harsh and dangerous conditions.
Migrant and seasonal farmworkers face slave-like hardships, such as racism, long hours of stoop labor in the fields, harassment in their work, abject poverty and debt, exposure to lethal nicotine and pesticides, poor health and limited access to health care, and denial of basic labor and human rights protections.
The workers who put food on our tables should not have to sacrifice their health, their bodies, or their families for a paycheck. What justice is there when I can enjoy the fruits of their labors while these workers can barely afford to feed their own families?
We Need to Be The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
“Everything about Omelas is so abundantly pleasing that the narrator decides the reader is not yet truly convinced of its existence and so elaborates upon the final element of the city: its one atrocity. The city’s constant state of serenity and splendor requires that a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness, and misery.
Once citizens are old enough to know the truth, most, though initially shocked and disgusted, ultimately acquiesce to this one injustice that secures the happiness of the rest of the city. However, a few citizens, young and old, silently walk away from the city, and no one knows where they go.”
Ursula le Guin, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (1973), Wikipedia
Here we are, we’re walking.
We’re leaving “the way things have always been,” but we’re not walking away. Not disappearing.
We are walking from comfortable lives built on the backs of food and farm workers. We are working to upend the system, to change how food is grown, harvested, and processed, to reduce the public’s dependence on “hyper-processed food,” to improve access to nutritional and locally produced whole and minimally processed food.
Join us on our journey to have access to affordable good food, justice for food workers, and health: healthy workers, healthy consumers, healthy food animals, and healthy soil.
- Ursula le Guin, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (1973)
- Coronavirus has more Americans turning directly to farms for food, Politico, 3/31/20 (https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/31/coronavirus-demand-for-local-farms-157538)
- Farmworkers in the Coronavirus Crosshairs, Civil Eats, 3/25/20 (https://civileats.com/2020/03/25/farmworkers-are-in-the-coronavirus-crosshairs/)
- Over 4,900 meat processing employees have tested positive for coronavirus: CDC, The Hill, 5/1/20 (https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/infrastructure/495654-over-4900-meat-processing-employees-have-been)
- Essential farmworkers risk COVID-19 exposure to maintain food supply, ABC News, 5/2/20 (https://abcnews.go.com/Business/essential-farmworkers-risk-covid-19-exposure-maintain-food/story?id=70365950)