I seldom watch documentaries. When I do it’s because I am feeling particularly ambitious about proving to Netflix that it does not know me that well because if it did the “Top Picks for PIli” would include films that hint I have a working intellect and am a socially-conscious lady.
Naturally, when I got the opportunity to attend a Food Chains screening I was psyched. Really, I was. I was even more surprised to realize that even if I had the option of pausing the screen (which I didn’t) I wouldn’t have exercised it. Food Chains is direct about its subject matter and specific in detailing the ways you can help.
Executive produced by Eva Longoria, directed by Sanjay Rawal, with explanations by Eric Schlosser and narrated by Forest Whitaker, Food Chains documents the positive changes the The Fair Food Program (FFP) has created in the agricultural labor industry while showcasing its still existing dehumanizing practices, i.e picking 40 buckets full of tomatoes, getting paid $0.50 a bucket, and being sexually harassed in the fields. The FFP was founded in 2001 by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a group of badass Florida tomato pickers who refused to accept the status quo. They formulated a plan, stuck with it and affected change.
The CIW figured out that if farmers, farm workers, and food companies came together they could ensure living wages and decent conditions for tomato pickers. Amongst other things, they drew up a code of conduct, a farming constitution if you will. Within two years they got the likes of Wal-Mart and every big fast food chain, except Wendy’s, (a fact that makes Longoria sad considering she worked there) to sign their agreement.
There is still a lot to be done about inhumane labor practices in the agricultural industry at a national level. The documentary focuses solely on Immokalee, Florida but seen from a birds eye view, Food Chains gives us an easily understood and effective model for big picture change.
Since the film is all about the tomato pickers who fought to shake up the agricultural industry, here are 4 things I learned about tomatoes.
UPDATE 5/18/17: You can see a special one-hour version of Food Chains on June 8, 2017 at UnionDocs in Brooklyn. It will screen together with the short film Delano Manongs on the Filipino pickers who started the famous grape boycott in 1965 and a clip of the upcoming documentary about activist Dolores Huerta, Dolores. The screening is organized by Remezcla and Skylight as part of the BK@24FPS #Resist Film Series.
They are blood tomatoes.
A typical day for a farm worker is 14 hours long. During that time, the worker will carry an average of 4,000 pounds of tomatoes. His/her wage is, on average, $42. That amounts to a yearly income below poverty level. That is insane. To quote Ms. Longoria, “We’re the best fed nation but the people who feed us go to bed hungry.”
Physical abuse was a common occurrence in Florida before The Fair Food Program and its code of conduct was enacted. Once, a tomato picker was beaten to the point of bleeding profusely, due to his request for a water break.
They are inspiring.
I will never look at a tomato the same way. When asked about putting their efforts into a coalition instead of fundraisers and charities, CIW co-founder, Lucas Benitez, gracefully answered, “This is not about charity, this is about justice.”The CIW has the Kennedy family, Dolores Huerta, and Eve Ensler on their side. All of whom have spoken on their behalf. It gives me get piel de gallina or goosebumps (same thing).
Eating an ethical tomato is way easier than going gluten free.
The Fair Food Program has been recognized and lauded by the likes of Bill Clinton, The New York Times and now, you. Transform yourself into an intelligent and socially-conscious bicultural millennial who recognizes that he/she can do something simple to make humane labor practices the norm all around the country and the world. (Take that, Netflix.)
Start buying tomatoes with a Fair Food Program sticker, all major supermarkets have them. (Except Publix, because they suck and have refused to come to the table to sign the agreement.)
Tomatoes are taking over theaters plus, they're even bilingual.
Watch Food Chains in cinemas starting November 21 or check it out on iTunes. There is even a Spanish version recorded by Demían Bichir which promises to be super sexy. After you see it, use social media for good. Tweet about it to @foodchainsfilm and use the hashtag #foodchains.