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PC(USA) partner featured in film that excoriates corporate control of US food industry

‘Food, Inc. 2’ lifts up Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The film “Food, Inc. 2” can be seen in theaters and online. (Photo courtesy of River Road, Participant and Magnolia Pictures)

LOUISVILLE — Connections between what we eat and the exploitation of low-wage laborers, from Immokalee farmworkers to fast-food employees, are highlighted in “Food, Inc. 2,” the new sequel to a highly acclaimed documentary about multinational corporations’ grip on the food industry and how it affects us.

The “Food, Inc.” sequel reunites directors Robert Kenner and Melissa Robledo with investigative authors and co-producers Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser to chronicle the shortcomings of the food system, some of which became apparent during the Covid pandemic. (Watch trailer)

“There were whole crops being buried, hogs being euthanized because they couldn’t be processed, farmers disposing of a flood of milk,” Pollan says in the film. “At the same time, there were shortages in the supermarket and people were lining up for miles because they were hungry, so this consolidated food system could not adapt to the changes coming so fast. … We need a system that is more resilient.”

The sprawling film, divided into segments in different cities across the United States and other parts of the world, explores a number of issues, from workplace conditions to threats to family farms to ways that highly processed foods are eroding health.

Since the first film came out in 2008, “multinational corporations have tightened their stronghold on U.S. governments, robbed workers of a fair living wage and contributed to the global proliferation of ultra-processed foods along with a chemically formulated international health crisis,” the film’s website contends.

A scene from “Food, Inc. 2” (Photo courtesy of River Road, Participant and Magnolia Pictures)

In a segment focused on Immokalee, farmworker Gerardo Reyes Chávez recalls hearing in Mexico that people could make as much as $70 a day by coming to work in the area where much of the nation’s tomatoes are grown.

“That was just a flat-out lie of recruiters, trying to just bring people with those false pretenses,” he says in the film. “Working in the fields, it’s mainly Latino workers and Haitian workers. The industry wants immigrant workers because they feel that they can take advantage of us.”

However, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a partner and grant recipient of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, has worked to improve conditions for farmworkers and to pressure food companies to support their cause, with help from allies through initiatives, such as the Campaign for Fair Food.

In 2011, CIW launched the Fair Food Program, “a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the people who feed our families,” according to the program’s website. Growers and buyers who are part of it “agree to implement the worker-informed ‘Code of Conduct,’ which outlines all the protections for farmworkers in the program, as well as the Fair Food Premium,” a bonus added to workers’ paychecks.

The program is now “the blueprint for labor relationships in many other parts of the country,” Chávez notes in the film.

Some of the other topics explored in “Food, Inc. 2” include food industry lobbying in Washington, D.C.; how the food industry contributes to global warming; a Covid outbreak at a meat plant; baby formula shortages; how tough it is to cover expenses when employed as a fast-food worker; and efforts to fix the food system.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker

U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is one of the politicians who appears in the film, stressing the need for reform. Among other things, Booker expresses concern that companies are preying upon low-income people in food deserts where junk food can be cheaper than produce and diabetes is all too common.

“As a nation, we are dramatically subsidizing, with our tax dollars, foods that are making us sick,” Booker says in the film. “And now we have to pay for the health care costs of the chronic disease that we’re fueling with our food system.”

Booker maintains that “by fixing our food system, we will create health and well-being in every aspect of our lives.”

To learn more about “Food, Inc. 2,” including places to watch it, such as Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, go here. Read CIW’s blog post about the film here.

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