Just this week, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Whole Foods Market, and Sunripe Certified Brands announced their landmark expansion of the Fair Food Program into the strawberry industry and onto the shelves of select Whole Foods produce aisles. This season marks the first expansion of the Fair Food Program into a new crop — now, in addition to tens of thousands of farmworkers in the tomato industry on the East Coast, workers in the strawberry fields of Sunripe Certified Brands (which you may recognize by its former name, Pacific Tomato Growers, a grower with a long history of support for the Fair Food Program) are working under the just and dignified conditions that the Fair Food Program ensures. And now, the strawberries they pick, affixed with the Fair Food label, are filling grocery carts in Whole Foods around the country.
This is truly a moment for celebration as strawberry workers in Florida taste the justice for which they have long struggled, and thousands more consumers gain the opportunity to learn about the Fair Food Program on their trip through the produce aisle. Recognizing the significance of this expansion for farmworkers’ lives, this moment of celebration also calls us to continue to take action. Throughout this month of action and far beyond, we will continue our demand that hold-out corporations join the Fair Food Program to facilitate the expansion of the Program further still so that all farmworkers may work under just and dignified conditions.
Here below is the joint press release announcing the news:
Whole Foods Market expands partnership with Coalition of Immokalee Workers
First retailer to introduce Fair Food Program strawberries
AUSTIN, Texas (March 22, 2016) – 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.
Whole Foods Market began supporting the Fair Food Program in 2008, four years before any other supermarket joined the effort. By offering Fair Food strawberries, Whole Foods Market has agreed to pay an additional amount for each case of strawberries it purchases, with the additional money being passed on to farmworkers to 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 farmworker 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 Immokalee 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 also announced they would be the first to use the new Fair Food Program label on both strawberry and tomato packages. The label was developed by the Fair Food Program to help shoppers identify produce that complies with the industry worker welfare program.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Whole Foods Market on the expansion of the Fair Food Program, and are particularly excited to debut the program label on certified products in its stores,” said Nely Rodriguez, education team member for the CIW. “The label symbolizes Florida farmworkers’ tireless efforts to forge a more modern, more humane agricultural industry. 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 Market stores primarily in the southeast as supply allows.