Monday, June 15, 2009

Food justice leaders to Chipotle: "We view the CIW’s struggle for dignity as a non-negotiable part of the struggle for a sustainable food system."

"Food, Inc." director (Robert Kenner) and co-producer (Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation) join more than two dozen sustainable food movement leaders in an open letter to burrito giant Chipotle!

In a strongly worded letter, more than two dozen of the country's leading sustainable food activists are demanding that Chipotle, the fastest growing company in fast-food, live up to its claims of "Food with Integrity" and "work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers as a true partner in the protection of farmworkers' rights."

Frances Moore Lappe ("Diet for a Small Planet"), Raj Patel ("Stuffed and Starved"), Josh Viertel (President, Slow Food USA), and Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser (director and co-producer the critically acclaimed new documentary on the food industry, "Food, Inc.") are just a few of the voices for a more just food system that added their names to the open letter. Here's an excerpt:

"We realize that Chipotle has announced that it's paying an extra penny per pound for tomatoes, but we have to ask: What has Chipotle done since that announcement to identify and cultivate growers who are willing to raise their labor standards and pass the penny along to their workers? Your company has shown admirable leadership in working with – and incubating – meat suppliers willing to meet your higher standards. But your failure to do that same hard work in the Florida tomato industry – together with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) – threatens to render your announcement an empty gesture aimed more at public relations damage control than an effort to make real change."

The letter comes in the wake of last week's news of an important breakthrough in the Campaign for Fair Food -- Whole Foods' announcement that two of Florida's leading organic producers, Alderman Farms and Lady Moon Farms, will implement the company's agreement with the CIW, including the penny-per-pound wage increase and a strict code of conduct.

We could not have said it better. Denver Fair Food is proud that, despite all Chipotle's attempts to sell itself as a sustability savior, the real sustainable food movement sees that their interests lie more with the diligent efforts of a grassroots farmworker organization than with the self-serving PR claims of a fast-food corporation. While Chipotle can remain a stubborn holdout against working with the CIW, it cannot expect those who believe in a just and sustainable food system to languish with it.

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