Whole Foods Market will be the first food retailer to offer strawberries certified by the Fair Food Program, a partnership that brings together workers, consumers, growers and retailers in support of humane labor standards and fairer wages in U.S. agriculture.
The Austin-based supermarket chain, which initiated its support of the Fair Food Program in 2008, will pay an additional amount for each case of Fair Food strawberries it purchases to help farm workers supplement their income. The program also requires suppliers to sign a code of conduct outlining specific social responsibility criteria; the code is then verified by a third-party.
“We advocate for and support sustainable, transparent, long-term labor and farm worker welfare solutions, both inside and outside the U.S.,” said Matt Rogers, senior global produce coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “The Fair Food Program is the leading worker welfare success story in the U.S. We are proud of our history with the Coalition of Immokolee Workers and are excited to support their certification as they expand beyond tomatoes.”
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a worker-based human rights organization, initially launched the Fair Food Program with the goal of creating systemic changes for Florida tomato pickers who routinely faced harsh working conditions. Following the success of its tomato program, the CIW has expanded its efforts to include strawberries.
The first certified strawberries will come from Florida-based grower Sunripe Certified Brands, a key supplier to Whole Foods Market and a leading advocate of the Fair Food Program.
“As the first tomato grower to implement the Fair Food Program at all of our tomato operations, Sunripe Certified Brands is proud to be the first grower to extend the guarantee of a safe and fair workplace to the strawberry fields of Florida," said Jon Esformes, CEO of Sunripe Certified Brands. "We're honored and humbled to play a part in creating change for the most vulnerable of American workers, and strongly urge other growers to join this important movement."
Whole Foods Market and Sunripe Certified Brands will also be the first to use the new Fair Food Program label on both strawberry and tomato packages to help shoppers identify produce that complies with the industry worker welfare program.
"The label symbolizes Florida farm workers’ tireless efforts to forge a more modern, more humane agricultural industry," said Nely Rodriguez, education team member for the CIW. "We’re proud to share the image and our story with Whole Foods Market shoppers.”
The certified and labeled products from Sunripe Certified Brands are in limited supply and will be sold in Whole Foods' stores primarily in the southeast as supply allows.