Since I got back from my rushed trip to Vermont, I've been a bit tired and trying to cram a lot of work in... and as they say, "all work and no play makes Jane a dull girl," so I haven't had much to say for myself.
Fortunately, though, a friend of mine sent me an e-mail filled with some food news I'd like to share, and she was kind enough to even provide her sources! The news involves the much-loved Trader Joe's, and the issue of where (and how) they source their produce. A New York City group, the Community / Farmworker Alliance, has been working in conjunction with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, based in Florida, to further their Campaign for Fair Food, which "seeks to improve wages and working conditions for Florida tomato pickers by calling on major buyers of tomatoes to pay a premium of one penny more per pound for their tomatoes, ensure that this penny is passed down directly to farmworkers." The principal is that major supermarket chains are always seeking the lowest cost possible for the foods that they buy, and when suppliers cut costs to meet their demands this ends up trickling straight down to farmworkers, affecting both wages and working conditions. So far, the CIW has successfully come to agreements with Taco Bell, McDonald's, Whole Foods, Burger King, Subway... all huge victories for farmworkers. Their most recent target has been Trader Joe's, which, much to my surprise, has so far not been particularly cooperative.
My father, when he went to Trader Joe's with me once (an exciting adventure for him), wanted to know who Trader Joe was, and when I had no ready answer immediately began embroidering stories about him: Trader Joe is a former pirate, who has his own trading post out in the Pacific Islands... I can't do his vision justice now, because there was quite a lot to it and I think I was driving while he was talking about it, but it was extensive and fantastic and yet probably not far off from what the words "Trader Joe" evoke for most people. And yet - who knew - it turns out that Trader Joe's is actually owned by the Albrecht family in Germany, who also run the Aldi-Nord supermarkets. Here is a fascinating article about them from CNN Money this August. An excerpt:
"...Trader Joe's business tactics are often very much at odds with its image as the funky shop around the corner that sources its wares from local farms and food artisans. Sometimes it does, but big, well-known companies also make many of Trader Joe's products. Those Trader Joe's pita chips? Made by Stacy's, a division of PepsiCo's (PEP, Fortune 500) Frito-Lay. On the East Coast much of its yogurt is supplied by Danone's Stonyfield Farm. And finicky foodies probably don't like to think about how Trader Joe's scale enables the chain to sell a pound of organic lemons for $2."
Anyway, please read more about Trader Joe's - and, as my friend wrote:
[To support CIW,] people can fill out the TJ's "feedback form" at
also the letter
and there are little postcards that don't seem to be downloadable,
but I'm sure the Community/Farmworker Alliance folks will be happy
to send a batch to anyone who wants to distribute them.