The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is celebrating the new Fair Food agreement announced Jan. 8 between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and The Fresh Market. The North Carolina-based specialty grocer is the 13th company to participate in the program, designed to support fair farm labor conditions and verifiable, worker-driven social responsibility in U.S. agriculture.

CIW states that The Fresh Market will increase its purchases by 15 percent year-over-year from Florida tomato growers participating in the Fair Food Program beginning with the 2015-16 season. In addition, the grocer will make an annual contribution to support the Fair Food Standards Council, the third-party monitoring organization overseeing compliance with human rights standards.

“We pray that this new partnership will help motivate Wendy’s and Publix Super Markets  to join with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in improving the lives of farm workers,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “The Fair Food Program is good for all parties involved, and the success of the program is obvious when I listened to workers this past year describing how they are actively protecting their rights.”

The CIW, with more than 4,500 farmworker members, is a PC(USA) mission partner. Presbyterians have worked with CIW from the beginning of the Campaign for Fair Food when farmworkers spoke out about the physical and sexual abuse, extreme low wages and poor living conditions.

Thousands of Presbyterians have supported the coalition by participating in marches and prayer vigils, sending letters and post cards to executives and meeting with managers of local grocery stores and restaurants.

“It is exciting how this agreement raises the bar still higher with Fresh Market committing to purchase 15 percent more Fair Food tomatoes each year and to financially contribute toward monitoring the Fair Food standards,” said Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate with the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “To the farmworkers who have organized for so many years, on behalf of Presbyterians across the country supporting the CIW, we celebrate with you.” 

The poor working and living conditions of tomato pickers in southern Florida were recently brought to light in a new documentary, “Food Chains: The Revolution in America’s Fields.” The film, produced by actress Eva Longoria and journalist Eric Schlosser, also focuses on efforts by the CIW and others to change the mindset of corporate America. It is being shown at theaters and film festivals across the country.

Twelve additional food-related corporations have agreements with the CIW: Yum! Brands, McDonalds, Burger King, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Chipotle, Aramark, Compass Group, Bon Appetit, Sodexo, Subway and Walmart. More than 30,000 farmworkers in Florida benefit from The Fair Food Program.

Learn more about PC(USA)’s participation in the Campaign for Fair Food and take action to urge Wendy’s and supermarkets (Publix, Ahold, Kroger) to join the Fair Food Program: