In observance of World Food Day on Nov. 8, the FRESH Basic Needs Hub hosted a showing of the documentary film “Food Chains.”
The documentary discussed the hardships facing farmers working for supermarkets for pennies an hour and chronicles their fight to get paid pennies more, in order to keep themselves and their families at a wage barely above the poverty line.
The reign of supermarkets began with Wal-Mart’s advent of low-priced bulk goods, an investment which has made it one of the largest-grossing companies worldwide today. Since 1992, supermarket revenue in the U.S. has increased from $370.5 billion to $701.2 billion, according to a survey collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.
In contrast, most farm workers are only paid between $10,000 and $13,000 yearly for individuals and between $15,000 and $17,500 for a family of four, as stated on the website of the National Farm Worker Ministry. According to the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the current Federal Poverty Line (FPL) is $12,060 for individuals and for a family of four, $24,600.
Farm workers are paid for each bucket they pick at pennies per bucket, according to the documentary.
In the town of Immokalee, Florida, where the documentary mostly focuses, the workers were forced to live fifteen families to a small trailer while working the fields due to rising rent prices.
Farm workers in Florida went on a hunger strike to protest these unfair wage practices and working conditions and talked to the owner of the Publix supermarket chain about raising their wages by just one penny an hour, which would double their wage earnings overall.
Publix did not acknowledge them, so they unionized, a move which eventually lead to the Fair Food Program, an agreement in which supermarket chains pledge to stop unfair work practices such as labor without pay and worker abuse and to pay farmers a liveable wage.
Albertsons, Target, Trader Joe’s, Aramark, Chipotle, Whole Foods, Subway, McDonalds, Wal-Mart and three other major retailers have signed this agreement.
The FRESH Basic Needs Hub showed the documentary in order to shed light on labor issues surrounding the food Americans consume every day and the widespread food insecurity it causes among farmers.
“It’s hard to come to the realization of how little you mean to the people you are working for,” said an anonymous worker at the Immokalee farms.