Fair Food Procurement

Why do we need Fair Food Procurement?

Photo by Scott Robertson

The economics of the food system creates systematic abuses down the supply chain, exploiting the most disempowered, through pressure on farmers, producers, and other suppliers to cut their labor costs. The increased corporate consolidation over the food system has resulted in suppliers receiving less money now than before. As a result, overall, workers in the food system receive lower wages than workers in other industries. Income for workers in the food chain is 44 percent lower than the economy as a whole. Low wages, wage theft, improper meal and rest breaks, unsafe working conditions, and lack of benefits are some of the primary issues pertaining to the treatment of food system workers. With close to 20 million people working in the U.S. food system, and millions more around the world, improving the livelihoods of food workers can greatly improve the economy.

What is Fair Food Procurement?

  • Fair food procurement is purchasing food produced under fair labor conditions for workers throughout the food supply chain and prioritizing sustainably produced food from local farms and food businesses.
  • Fair food procurement also ensures that workers throughout the food supply chain –from production, processing, distribution, and service – are paid a fair living wage, provided with safe working conditions, and have their rights respected.

Key Points of the Fair Food Procurement Policy:

  • Transparency in the supply chain
  • Strong code of conduct
  • Living wages
  • Preference for local and sustainably produced food
Photo by: Food Chain Workers Alliance
  • Support the growth of local green businesses and therefore good jobs, thereby increasing tax revenue and decreasing the use of social services
  • Develop the local economy – local purchases returning three times the purchase price to the local economy of a food product purchased from an out of state company
  • Reduction of food miles, greenhouse gases and carbon footprints from less intensive farming

Problems that Fair Food Procurement Policy Addresses:

The Food Chain Workers Alliance surveyed over 600 food system workers and found that while 13.5% earn livable wages, the vast majority earns subminimum, poverty or low wages. Almost four out of five workers also reported that they do not have, or do not know if they have, paid sick days. This endangers workers’ health, public health, and food safety.

Food system workers also reported working in high-risk environments, and that accidents and injuries in food harvesting, processing, distribution, retail, and service environments were frequent.  More than half of all workers surveyed (52%) reported that they did not receive health and safety training from their employers. More than one in 10 workers (11.7%) reported being required to do something that put their own safety at risk. One example of such high-risk work is exposure to toxic chemicals, from pesticides for farmworkers to oven-cleaning chemicals for restaurant workers. Almost one-quarter (23%) of all workers surveyed reported regularly coming into contact with such dangerous chemicals.


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