Food Inc., A Good Start
Fair Food: Field to Table, A Good Addition
Food Inc. provided a great introduction for thousands of people beginning to think critically about the food system. It took on a lot in its scope, from factory slaughterhouses, to issues of hunger, to food safety, to the loss of farmland, to corporate control of genetic seed varieties. There’s an overwhelming amount to process once you begin to think about making change in how this country eats. What surprised me about the film was that it talked about what so many analyses about food and sustainability miss these days: farm workers. Farm workers are such a critical component of our food making it to our tables and yet they are far from the general public’s mind and are very often off the radar of even to food activists. Food Inc. was admirable in its complexity; the filmmakers’ chose to discuss not only dangerous working conditions in the fields but also briefly raised questions about the heated topic of immigration and the exploitation that many undocumented workers face. But with the film’s lofty breadth came the reality that each issue could only just be touched upon. My main criticism of the movie was that it lacked a central analysis that could cohesively frame what is at the heart of the problems of our foods system. I admit this would have been no easy task, but I left the theater with a vivid reminder that many problems exist but not with the sense that these problems were all linked. While discussing farm workers was important, it felt like just another disjointed piece of a failing system.
In many ways, farm worker conditions seem an important and helpful place to begin our discussions about agriculture. By first looking to farm workers’ conditions we make sure to ground our analysis in the lives of the most exploited group of people in our country. By beginning with farm workers we can remind ourselves of the most direct human costs of our failed food system. From farm workers we can begin to understand the role of corporate profiteering in the food system through worker exploitation. We can see the dangers of pesticide from worker exposure on the front lines of the fields. We can understand the ways in which worker safety and food safety must be accomplished hand in hand. We can see the flagrant disparity of who has access to healthy food by the fact that the very people who pick our food often can’t afford to eat it themselves. By keeping our eyes on farm workers we are guided to the heart of many of the justice issues at stake in how we produce our food.
With this in mind I was happy to stumble across a new film produced by The Fair Food Project called “Fair Food: Field to Table.” The short movie focuses entirely on farm workers and begins to flush out what was just touched upon in Food Inc. The film is in three parts. It begins with a segment of farm workers articulating what exploitations they face. The second segment focuses on growers who are finding responsible and profitable ways to justly employ farm workers. The final segment gives an overview of both farm worker and ally led organizing efforts to improve the structural problems facing farm workers. The movie is brief, so it can’t say it all but it does provide a great introduction to problems of farm labor and highlights much of the impressive organizing currently taking place. The list of collaborators on the film is long and packed full of some of the most thoughtful, and powerful organizations working for farm worker justice. So go and supplement your Food Inc. knowledge and check out fairfoodproject.org!