The pandemic has spotlighted many essential industries, including agriculture. National Farmworker Awareness Week, March 25-31, provides the chance to acknowledge all of those farmworkers who are helping to keep store shelves stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, especially during these unprecedented times.
While shoppers don’t see them, food retailers are reliant on farmworkers to grow, harvest, process and pack fresh food for their shelves every day. Nearly 2.5 million farmworkers are employed on farms and ranches throughout the United Sates, performing hard and skilled labor. An estimated 425,000 farmworkers work in the fresh produce industry alone.
National Farmworker Awareness Week is a designated week of action for communities to bring attention to the multiple challenges farmworkers face and honor their important and always essential contributions to the food supply chain. Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), the workforce development and certification organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumer advocacy groups, is encouraging everyone in the supply chain to share messages honoring farmworkers. To help, EFI has developed key messages and graphics available in a free communications toolkit.
"One positive thing to come out of the pandemic is that farmworkers were recognized as essential, but this is by no means a new concept," said LeAnne Ruzzamenti, director of marketing communications for EFI. "They have always played a vital role in the food supply chain, and in fact are the root of the supply chain, ensuring the availability, quality and safety of our food. They should be celebrated every day, and those of us working in the food system need to ensure they have safe, healthy and respectful working conditions."
EFI is encouraging the food industry to speak as one voice and continue to amplify the message that farmworkers are always essential by:
- Creating unique content or videos for social media highlighting Farmworker Awareness Week and using the #AlwaysEssential hashtag.
- Providing "live" content for social media channels, including farmworker interviews detailing their jobs, the safety precautions they take, and the skills and knowledge they bring to their work.
- Asking state governors or legislative officials to draft a proclamation supporting Farmworker Awareness Week.
- Hosting socially distant events in celebration of farmworkers.
Now more than ever, consumers have taken an interest in where their food comes from and the workers who help get it from farm to table. To be more transparent, companies like San Francisco-based Plenty are providing consumers with easy access to learn about its growing process. The vertical-farm company is offering a first-of-its-kind Text-a-Farmer feature, on display next to its produce in Safeway stores. Text-a-Farmer lets shoppers text questions while shopping and receive an answer directly from a Plenty farmer. Questions can cover anything related to Plenty and its produce, including “Do you use pesticides on your leafy greens,” “Is your packaging recyclable,” and “How do I keep my greens fresh longer?”
Washington D.C.-based EFI is a nonprofit certification and skill-building organization that seeks to increase transparency in the food supply chain and improve the lives of farmworkers through a team-based approach to training and continuous improvement practices. EFI brings together growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to solve the most pressing issues facing the fresh produce industry. Its approach sets standards for labor practices, food safety and pest management.
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates 2,252 retail stores with 1,725 pharmacies, 398 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores predominantly operate under the banners Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Haggen. The company is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. The Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, and Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods, which is owned by Seattle-based Amazon, are Nos. 3 and 24, respectively, on PG's list, while Amazon is No. 2.