Interfaith Letter to Giant Food Stores
As people of faith and anti-hunger advocates, we are deeply concerned about the well-being of farmworkers who harvest the food that comes to our tables. We are writing to ask Giant to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' “Fair Food Program,” in order to ensure that farmworkers who pick the tomatoes sold in your stores do not experience poverty, hunger, and abusive conditions.
We speak out of faith traditions and ethical principles that value the sharing of food and the seeking of justice and dignity for the impoverished and forgotten. Many of us know Giant for the generous contributions that your stores make to anti-hunger efforts in our communities, such as donations to food cupboards. We are very grateful for these contributions. We are further encouraged by your statement of commitment to fair treatment for food production workers, as expressed in the “Corporate Responsibility Statement” that your parent company, Ahold, has put forward:
Increasing the sustainability of our products means that we aim for them to be grown or produced with consideration for – and responsibility towards – the people, animals, and environment involved in their production.
We know that you have begun to act on this principle by increasing the number of Fair Trade products that you carry in your stores. We believe that fair trade principles should be applied to food grown not just abroad but here in the United States. As such, we hope that you will act decisively to address unjust conditions facing farmworkers in Florida who supply your stores with tomatoes.
Over the past decade, the unjust treatment of farmworkers across the United States has received increasing attention from religious organizations, human rights groups, conscientious consumers and the media. The unacceptable conditions that farmworkers experience include stagnant, sub-poverty wages (averaging $10-12,000 per year); pesticide poisoning; verbal, physical and sexual abuse; and, in extreme cases, modern-day slavery.
At the same time, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Fair Food Program has been widely acclaimed as an effective way of addressing this crisis. The program involves a partnership between workers, growers, and retailers, in which retailers pay one extra penny per pound for Florida tomatoes and commit to purchasing tomatoes exclusively from growers that adopt a code of conduct guaranteeing dignified conditions for farmworkers. Eleven major corporations have already joined, including McDonalds, Subway, Aramark, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's.
Since the program came into effect in 2011, thousands of farmworkers have already benefited from improved wages, rights to shade and water, a mechanism to report abuses without fear of retaliation, and freedom from sexual harassment and modern-day slavery. Giant's refusal to join the program greatly undermines these hard-won gains, providing a market to farms where abuses continue to occur. It also deprives farmworkers of urgently needed income.
Given Giant’s reputation for corporate responsibility, we are surprised that you have not joined the Fair Food Program in the many years since the Alliance for Fair Food began contacting you in 2007. We urge you to show love for your neighbors, near and far, seen and unseen, by taking this important step. We intend to inform our congregations, friends, and colleagues about this important issue, and to remain engaged.
We respectfully request your response and action.