For this week’s post, Part 2 in a series (Part 1 here), I want to point you toward the documentary “Food Chains.” The title refers to the food supply chain in this country, in which decision makers at the top of the food chain (primarily the big four supermarket chains: Publix, Kroger, Walmart and Safeway) make decisions that create horrible conditions for those at the bottom of the food chain (farm workers).
The film focuses first on tomato agriculture in Florida, then on agriculture in California. A few highlights:
- Most people have no idea that they’re connected to this unfair system every time they buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Massive corporations (supermarket chains) generate half a trillion dollars in revenue each year in the United States alone, but the workers live below the poverty line.
- Paying farm workers on tomato farms an extra penny for every pound they pick would double their wages, but would cost a large supermarket chain only $1 million per year. If the supermarket chain chose to pass that cost along to their customers, it would cost the average family only 44 cents more per year.
- Only four massive supermarket chain exist now. They have an unprecedented amount of power.
- Many workers pick produce for 8-12 hours a day, yet are homeless because they can’t afford housing on what they earn, which may be as little as $40 per day.
- The labor costs on a $1,000 bottle of Napa Valley wine is only around 25 cents. That’s because wages for grape pickers, as with other California farm workers, is so low.
- Edward R. Murrow was reporting on what was essentially the SAME problem in 1960, in what was known as the Harvest of Shame. Clearly, we have made little progress.