Turning Learning into Action

UUSC’s New Food Justice Activist Network

The food chain in the United States — which employs more than 20 million workers — is riddled with injustice. Making change throughout the food industry will take commitment, coordination, and collective action. UUSC’s Justice-Building Program has launched the UUSC Food Justice Activist Network to provide people with the resources and support to embark on effective organizing campaigns designed to transform the food industry.

Why the food chain?

Farmworkers, poultry processors, restaurant servers, and others in the food industry face a host of challenges every day as they try to make a living and support their families. Just a taste of what they are up against:

  • Low pay with few or no benefits
  • Wage theft
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Hazardous working conditions

Pamela Sparr, who heads UUSC’s Justice-Building Program and created the Food Justice Activist Network, explains, “Ensuring access to safe, healthy, affordable food and safe, fairly paid jobs throughout the chain of food production connects with multiple movements: racial justice, immigrant justice, economic, and environmental justice, just to name a few. Food justice is a natural and important focus for the first of UUSC’s new activist networks.”

About the activist network

The initial members of the Food Justice Activist Network were participants in a recent training — Justice in the Food Chain — that was collaboratively produced by the UU College of Social Justice and the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) in Chicago. The training brought together food chain workers with activist allies who care about sourcing food in a way that is both environmentally conscious and fair to workers. Now the UUSC Food Justice Activist Network will support the congregration-based participants in leveraging their learning into action.

The hallmarks of the network:

  • Welcomes people of all faith traditions as well as those who feel called from a place of spirituality or conscience without a particular religious identity
  • Offers problem solving, coaching, supportive listening, and strategizing
  • Provides valuable tools and resources

Supporting the Good Food Purchasing Policy

The first organizing effort that network activists are tackling is promoting the Good Food Purchasing Policy (GFPP), which deals with public food procurement in various cities. With support from UUSC and the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), network members will rally community energy for implementing the GFPP in their own areas.

Accordng to FCWA, GFPP provides a metric-based policy that enables institutions to “work with food service providers, distributors, processors and growers to create a transparent ‘farm-to-fork’ food supply.” The policy standards are based on five factors:

  • Local economies
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Fair labor
  • Animal welfare
  • Nutrition

First developed by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, the GFPP governs an estimated 750,000 meals a day in Los Angeles via the city and school district. The Food Justice Activist Network aims to expand the program to other cities and states. UUSC and the FCWA recently called on Food Justice Activist Network members and other supporters to urge Darden — which has more than 1,500 restaurants with 150,000 employees and serves 320 million meals a year — to abide by GFPP principles. More than 3,600 people had signed the online petition as of November 2015.

This work will have additional support, too: “I am very pleased to announce that the board of UU Food Justice Ministries (formerly the President’s Advisory Committee on Ethical Eating) is enthusiastically partnering with us on this campaign,” says Sparr.

Learn more about UUSC’s Justice-Building Program.

Jessica L. Atcheson is UUSC’s writer and editor.

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