March 2014

Food Chain Documentary

Written by Carolyn Smalkowski

Labor Abuses in US Agriculture

Compelling new documentary, "Food Chains," premieres at 2014 Berlin Film Festival to sold-out screenings, generates serious buzz at starstudded festival…

On an average day, 32 million Americans will go grocery shopping, spending approximately 41 minutes per visit at the store. Yet, many Americans know little about the life cycle of their food from farm to table, including the potential abuses that may be taking place out of the public eye.

A new documentary called Food Chain seeks to explore worker's rights in American agriculture. It highlights the lives of America's farm workers, documenting slave-like conditions, exploitation, harsh living conditions, and low wages. According to the film, "the entire modern supermarket goes out of its way so that you're not reminded of where your food came from or who picked it."

The film features activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta, investigative journalist Eric Schlosser, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., among others. Although Food Chain is still in production, the film makers aspire to encourage grocery stores to be leaders in the food justice movement by demanding better wages and working conditions from the farms they support.

Farm labour has always been one of the most difficult and poorly paid jobs and has relied on some of the nation's most vulnerable people. While the legal restrictions which kept people bound to farms, like slavery, have been abolished, exploitation still exists, ranging from wage theft to modern-day slavery. These days, this exploitation is perpetuated by the corporations at the top of the food chain: supermarkets. Their buying power has kept wages pitifully low and has created a scenario where desperately poor people are willing to put up with anything to keep their jobs. By Carolyn Smalkowski: a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.