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This Food Chains Impact Story was created by filmmakers Sanjay Rawal and Smriti Keshari as part of the Fledgling Engagement Lab. It is a shareable visual story about how the film made an impact on corporations, built meaningful partnerships and elevated the conversation around farmworker rights.

 

Food Chains is a feature-length documentary exposing the exploitation of farmworkers in the United States. Directed by Sanjay Rawal and produced by Smriti Keshari, the film included Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser on its team. The film was released in late 2014 and features the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a small but highly-lauded group of tomato pickers from southern Florida. The film focuses on the campaign of the CIW against large purchasers of Florida tomatoes. The impact campaign of the film focused on three things: increasing awareness of the plight of farmworkers as well as the CIW’s proven solution (the Fair Food Program); furthering the CIW’s campaign in the world of large corporate purchasers of tomatoes; and changing procurement policy at the corporate and governmental levels. We tried to achieve these goals through a deep and on-going partnership with the CIW, through elevating conversation amongst various constituents and stakeholders, and through direct action in support or in protest of select corporate entities.

Fair Food Program

Farm labor abuse has been a reality in the fields of America since pre-revolutionary times. Farmworkers were once, for the most part, held in chattel slavery - African-Americans in the South and Native Americans in Spanish California. After the Civil War, most African-American farmworkers became indentured sharecroppers. Mexicans were granted temporary permits to work the fields of California. When President Roosevelt established the New Deal wage and abuse protections for workers like the Federal Labor Standards Act, farmworkers were excluded. Farmworker unions rose to power in California in the 1960s and 1970s, but by the 1990s, most of their gains had been clawed back.

Legislation has never been a tool farmworkers upon which farmworkers could rely. The CIW’s Fair Food Program looks beyond legislation and to the power of the supply chain. It demands that the large purchasers of Florida tomatoes (supermarkets, food service and fast food) do two things: pay an extra penny per pound for purchases and refuse to buy from farms with labor violations. This program is monitored by a third party which has the power to enforce regulations. There are now market consequences for non-compliant farms - they’re excluded from selling to 13 of the largest tomato buyers in the world. This revolutionary program, combining wage increases plus swift resolution of worker complaints has transformed the fields of Florida.

For more information, please visit: fairfoodprogram.org

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The impact of social justice documentaries can depend heavily on the relationship between the filmmakers and those who have dedicated their lives to the cause. Early on, the team behind Food Chains chose to focus its narrative on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. While the CIW had already received significant acclaim for its unique solution to further the rights of farmworkers in the Florida tomato industry (The Fair Food Program), Food Chains captured the CIW at a tipping point. The symbiosis between both Food Chains and the CIW influenced both the impact of the CIW’s work and the impact of the film. While the film doesn’t claim causal credit for the CIW's achievements, this section will show the associative connection between the film’s impact goals and some of the recent successes of the CIW.

Film Production Begins

Production of Food Chains begins with trip to Vermont followed by an intensive development road trip throughout California and Florida.

Film Production Begins

Wal-mart Joins
Fair Food Program

The CIW had been first introduced to Wal-mart executives via Michael Pollan in early 2012. In the spring, the Food Chains team accelerated the...

Wal-mart Joins the Fair Food Program

The CIW had been first introduced to Wal-mart executives via Michael Pollan in early 2012. In the spring, the Food Chains team accelerated the dialogue between them by organizing a panel discussion at SMU in Dallas, convening the CIW, Wal-mart’s EVP of Food, Jack Sinclair, and Eva Longoria. This was the first face-to-face meeting between Mr. Sinclair and the CIW. Over the subsequent 18 months, the Food Chains team, including Ms. Longoria and Eric Schlosser, encouraged Walmart as independent voices of support for the CIW. When Wal-mart ultimately signed the Fair Food Agreements in January 2014, Food Chains was the only media crew granted access to the ceremony. Since the signing, Wal-mart has had discussions with Food Chains on how best to advance labor rights in their agricultural supply chain. Food Chains also received a prestigious Impact Award from the Pvblic Foundation for its modest role in this process.

Food Chains Screens at
Berlin & Tribeca Film Fests

Food Chains had its world premiere and domestic premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival, respectively. At both vaunted events, the festivals organized...

Berlin and Tribeca Film Festivals

Food Chains had its world premiere and domestic premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival, respectively before signing with the distributor Screen Media. At both vaunted events, the festivals organized panel discussions around the CIW’s unique solution to address human rights abuses in the fields. In Berlin, the discussion was chaired by the former German Minister of Culture and featured Eric Schlosser, the CIW, and director Diego Luna who screened his narrative film CESAR CHAVEZ at the festival. At Tribeca, Eva Longoria led a panel with Eric, the CIW and the director of Food Chains. These two panels led to a number of subsequent ones, including at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Food Chains aligned its distribution with its social impact goals. Screen Media was incredibly receptive to the message of the film. It's then-President, Ms. Suzanne Blech, grew up in Central Florida and spent her summers working in the orange industry. She knew the abuses of farmworkers firsthand.Food Chains had its world premiere and domestic premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival, respectively before signing with the distributor Screen Media. At both vaunted events, the festivals organized panel discussions around the CIW’s unique solution to address human rights abuses in the fields. In Berlin, the discussion was chaired by the former German Minister of Culture and featured Eric Schlosser, the CIW, and director Diego Luna who screened his narrative film CESAR CHAVEZ at the festival. At Tribeca, Eva Longoria led a panel with Eric, the CIW and the director of Food Chains. These two panels led to a number of subsequent ones, including at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Food Chains aligned its distribution with its social impact goals. Screen Media was incredibly receptive to the message of the film. It's then-President, Ms. Suzanne Blech, grew up in Central Florida and spent her summers working in the orange industry. She knew the abuses of farmworkers firsthand.

Food Chains Holds Screenings
for Influencers

In the summer of 2014, Food Chains held a number of private screenings hosted by political, culinary and social leaders including Katrina vanden Huevel of The Nation...

Screenings for Influencers

In the summer of 2014, Food Chains held a number of private screenings hosted by political, culinary and social leaders including Katrina vanden Huevel of The Nation, Chef Alice Waters and former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

These screenings were critical in building word of mouth amongst activists. We held screenings focused on the Latino advocacy space (with NALIP), foodies (with Chef Waters), the anti-trafficking lobby (with ATEST in Washington DC), progressive activists (NetRoots Nation), conferences of farmworker advocates across the nation, and human rights groups like Human Rights Watch.In the summer of 2014, Food Chains held a number of private screenings hosted by political, culinary and social leaders including Katrina vanden Huevel of The Nation, Chef Alice Waters and former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

These screenings were critical in building word of mouth amongst activists. We held screenings focused on the Latino advocacy space (with NALIP), foodies (with Chef Waters), the anti-trafficking lobby (with ATEST in Washington DC), progressive activists (NetRoots Nation), conferences of farmworker advocates across the nation, and human rights groups like Human Rights Watch.

CIW Receives
Clinton Global Citizen Award

In September 2014, the CIW received the Clinton Global Citizen Award (CGCA) at the Clinton Global Initiative’s Opening Gala. Eva Longoria was on hand to present the award with President...

Clinton Global Citizen Award

In September 2014, the CIW received the Clinton Global Citizen Award (CGCA) at the Clinton Global Initiative’s Opening Gala. Eva Longoria was on hand to present the award with President, Secretary and Chelsea Clinton at an event where Leonardo DiCaprio was also honored. Secretary Clinton had been long aware of the CIW’s groundbreaking work, but the award proceedings were initiated by the staff of CGI who attended the Tribeca Film Festival Premiere in New York. The Food Chains team arranged for a private presentation by the CIW at the Clinton Foundation offices. At the award ceremony, which featured the trailer of Food Chains, President Clinton remarked that the CIW’s work was “the most astonishing thing politically happening in the world we're living in today”.

In September 2014, the CIW received the Clinton Global Citizen Award (CGCA) at the Clinton Global Initiative’s Opening Gala. Eva Longoria was on hand to present the award with President, Secretary and Chelsea Clinton at an event where Leonardo DiCaprio was also honored. Secretary Clinton had been long aware of the CIW’s groundbreaking work, but the award proceedings were initiated by the staff of CGI who attended the Tribeca Film Festival Premiere in New York. The Food Chains team arranged for a private presentation by the CIW at the Clinton Foundation offices. At the award ceremony, which featured the trailer of Food Chains, President Clinton remarked that the CIW’s work was “the most astonishing thing politically happening in the world we're living in today”.

Food Chains Launches
Theatrically

Food Chains opened in the theaters a week before Thanksgiving and ignited a conversation around labor in the food industry with features on...

Food Chains Launches Theatrically

Food Chains opened in the theaters a week before Thanksgiving and ignited a conversation around labor in the food industry with features on Real Time with Bill Maher, Late Night with Seth Myers, and the Colbert Report, reaching over 13 million people. With stories and reviews in dozens of newspapers across the nation, including features in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlantic, and Mother Jones, Food Chains elevated the profile of the CIW. During the month of November, the film generated over 70 million Twitter impressions.

CIW’s Fair Food
Label Launches

The CIW launched a label signifying select Florida tomatoes as Fair Food tomatoes with participating retailer Whole Foods. Food Chains led the PR through partnership...

CIW’s Fair Food Label Launches

The CIW launched a label signifying select Florida tomatoes as Fair Food tomatoes with participating retailer Whole Foods. Food Chains led the PR through partnerships with Consumer Reports and Food Day. Eva Longoria featured the label one month later on her appearance on the Colbert Report.

Retail Chain Fresh Market
Joins the Fair Food Program

Just one month in advance of the theatrical launch of Food Chains, Fresh Market signs on to the Fair Food Program.

Fresh Market Joins the Fair Food Program

Just one month in advance of the theatrical launch of Food Chains, Fresh Market signs on to the Fair Food Program.

Theatergoers Join Protests

After two dozen of Food Chains’ opening week screenings and panels (featuring Barry Estabrook, Michael Pollan, Amy Goodman, Dr. Marion Nestle and others), audience...

Theatergoers Join Protests

Workers themselves said that we needed to create powerful links between activists and farmworkers. So we sought to support workers already organizing (like the CIW) and to find people that had a history in other types of social action.

We realized that nothing would work better than film screenings plus panels with farmworkers. Our target audience would be (and was) shocked to see the visuals of labor in fields. And they’d likely never ever spoken to a farmworker. The film created a visceral reaction and the panels turned that reaction into action.

And people became true activists once they took action, like participating in a protest.

After two dozen of Food Chains’ opening week screenings and panels (featuring Barry Estabrook, Michael Pollan, Amy Goodman, Dr. Marion Nestle and others), audience members were ushered outside the theaters to join protests against local retailers who had yet to join the Fair Food Program. Over 2 thousand people participated in actions against Publix, Wendy’s and Kroger. Workers themselves said that we needed to create powerful links between activists and farmworkers. So we sought to support workers already organizing (like the CIW) and to find people that had a history in other types of social action.

We realized that nothing would work better than film screenings plus panels with farmworkers. Our target audience would be (and was) shocked to see the visuals of labor in fields. And they’d likely never ever spoken to a farmworker. The film created a visceral reaction and the panels turned that reaction into action.

And people became true activists once they took action, like participating in a protest.

After two dozen of Food Chains’ opening week screenings and panels (featuring Barry Estabrook, Michael Pollan, Amy Goodman, Dr. Marion Nestle and others), audience members were ushered outside the theaters to join protests against local retailers who had yet to join the Fair Food Program. Over 2 thousand people participated in actions against Publix, Wendy’s and Kroger.

Secretary John Kerry
Honors CIW at White House

Secretary Kerry presents the CIW with the Presidential Medal for Combatting Trafficking in Humans at a White House ceremony. A special reel of highlights from...

Secretary John Kerry Honors CIW

Secretary Kerry presents the CIW with the Presidential Medal for Combatting Trafficking in Humans at a White House ceremony. A special reel of highlights from Food Chains was requested by the State Department and screened at this event.

In his remarks, Secretary Kerry said, "...So if you dig deeper, you begin to see that modern slavery does not exist in a vacuum... One of the greatest zones of impunity is in the supply chains. The sources of the problem include individuals desperate for work; unscrupulous labor brokers who lie to recruit those workers; companies greedy for profits, who turn a blind eye to abuses; and customers looking to just save that extra dollar or two without regard to what the implications of those savings may be. If governments want responsible businesses to compete on a level playing field, then we need to address this problem head on...

"But thanks to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Program, the tomato workers in the fields do not have to face these abuses. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers have organized communities, stood by tomato workers for more than 20 years, and changed the face of this industry. They’ve pioneered a zero tolerance policy that puts workers and social responsibility at the absolute center. Their program ensures a price premium which buyers agree to pay directly to the farm worker, and the coalition provides worker-to-worker training sessions on site around the clock. They make certain that there are health and safety committees for – on every farm. And they’ve already enlisted the major support of buyers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Compass Group, and Fresh Market."Secretary Kerry presents the CIW with the Presidential Medal for Combatting Trafficking in Humans at a White House ceremony. A special reel of highlights from Food Chains was requested by the State Department and screened at this event.

In his remarks, Secretary Kerry said, "...So if you dig deeper, you begin to see that modern slavery does not exist in a vacuum... One of the greatest zones of impunity is in the supply chains. The sources of the problem include individuals desperate for work; unscrupulous labor brokers who lie to recruit those workers; companies greedy for profits, who turn a blind eye to abuses; and customers looking to just save that extra dollar or two without regard to what the implications of those savings may be. If governments want responsible businesses to compete on a level playing field, then we need to address this problem head on...

"But thanks to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Program, the tomato workers in the fields do not have to face these abuses. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers have organized communities, stood by tomato workers for more than 20 years, and changed the face of this industry. They’ve pioneered a zero tolerance policy that puts workers and social responsibility at the absolute center. Their program ensures a price premium which buyers agree to pay directly to the farm worker, and the coalition provides worker-to-worker training sessions on site around the clock. They make certain that there are health and safety committees for – on every farm. And they’ve already enlisted the major support of buyers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Compass Group, and Fresh Market."

Wendy’s Targeted
by CIW

Food Chains is used on dozens of campuses to rally students behind a boycott of fast food giant Wendy’s, the last major fast food chain yet to join the Fair Food Program.

Wendy’s Targeted by CIW

After our festival premiere, we approached the Wendys CEO directly and initiated a dialogue between he and Eva Longoria, a former employee of Wendys. The CEO even announced this dialogue at a summer 2014 shareholders meeting when accosted by the CIW. The conversations ended up being fruitless. And when we had our theatrical premiere, we focused on protests against Wendy's in cities that didn't have Publix stores like New York City and Washington DC.

Food Chains is also being used on dozens of campuses to rally students behind a boycott of fast food giant Wendy’s, with a focus on boycotting those Wendy's restaurants located on campus grounds.After our festival premiere, we approached the Wendys CEO directly and initiated a dialogue between he and Eva Longoria, a former employee of Wendys. The CEO even announced this dialogue at a summer 2014 shareholders meeting when accosted by the CIW. The conversations ended up being fruitless. And when we had our theatrical premiere, we focused on protests against Wendy's in cities that didn't have Publix stores like New York City and Washington DC.

Food Chains is also being used on dozens of campuses to rally students behind a boycott of fast food giant Wendy’s, with a focus on boycotting those Wendy's restaurants located on campus grounds.

Ahold Joins
Fair Food Program

Food Chains was screened numerous times in Amsterdam, the location of the retail giant Ahold, which owns the Giant, Stop and Shop and Peapod chains in the US. Local food...

Ahold Joins Fair Food Program

Food Chains was screened numerous times in Amsterdam, the location of the retail giant Ahold, which owns the Giant, Stop and Shop and Peapod chains in the US. Local food justice activists rallied support for the Fair Food Program through local screenings and associated protests.

James McCann, Chief Operating Officer of Ahold USA, said, “Ahold USA’s companies are deeply committed to responsible practices throughout their operations and to providing customers with great products at great prices from suppliers who share our dedication to strong ethical standards and fair treatment for workers. The cornerstone of this commitment is the Ahold Standards of Engagement, which commit our companies’ suppliers to these values. The Fair Food Program is a time-tested leader in improving the lives of agricultural workers, and we have observed the Program’s success over the past several years. Our companies and our customers care about the welfare of workers in our supply chain, and we believe now is the right time to begin an important new chapter in our partnership with the CIW.”Food Chains was screened numerous times in Amsterdam, the location of the retail giant Ahold, which owns the Giant, Stop and Shop and Peapod chains in the US. Local food justice activists rallied support for the Fair Food Program through local screenings and associated protests.

James McCann, Chief Operating Officer of Ahold USA, said, “Ahold USA’s companies are deeply committed to responsible practices throughout their operations and to providing customers with great products at great prices from suppliers who share our dedication to strong ethical standards and fair treatment for workers. The cornerstone of this commitment is the Ahold Standards of Engagement, which commit our companies’ suppliers to these values. The Fair Food Program is a time-tested leader in improving the lives of agricultural workers, and we have observed the Program’s success over the past several years. Our companies and our customers care about the welfare of workers in our supply chain, and we believe now is the right time to begin an important new chapter in our partnership with the CIW.”

100 Screenings in One Month

Food Chain is screened over 100 times during the month of March, 65 times in the last week of March alone (National Farmworker Awareness Week). Thousands of students...

100 Screenings in One Month

Food Chains is screened over 100 times during the month of March, 65 times in the last week of March alone (National Farmworker Awareness Week). Thousands of students and community members are introduced to the CIW.

Local, State and
National Government
Targeted

Food Chains was used by several municipalities to convene local stakeholders in the food economy. The film was subsequently honored at the...

Local, State & National Government

We arranged a full week of action during National Farmworker Awareness Week 2015 (March 24-31).

Top Line Results:

  • Food Chains hits #1 on the iTunes Documentary Charts!
  • 65 screenings hosted nationwide during the week - and 100 during the whole month.

Influencer Screenings:

  • The New York Times Hosts Food Chains, the CIW, and Kerry Kennedy for a panel discussion around farmworker rights
  • The AFL-CIO hosts a packed screening of Food Chains in advance of National Farmworker Awareness Week
  • The Sacramento Food Film Festival Closes the Fest with Food Chains! Complete with a talk with Sanjay Rawal
  • Modern Times Book Store is screening the film for local activists and writers in San Francisco

Food Chains Extras!

  • PSA created in partnership with the ILO
  • Earthjustice Featured Food Chains' Short Film on pesticides
  • Strawberry Short released through Civil Eats

National Screening Tour:

  • 60+ screenings hosted across the country
  • Organizers were provided with promotional material
  • Organizers were provided with a custom feedback survey

Organizers Response:

  • "Many [audience members] commented they would no longer eat at Wendy’s and start asking the grocers etc., where they shop where their fruits & veggies are coming from. I’d say all in all it was a success and people left feeling involved, informed and wanting to tell others."
  • "We held a discussion with a panel including 3 farmworkers, one of our medical providers, and a couple of our staff and it went over really well. It was a very lively conversation with lots of good questions."
  • "Discussion included asking our workplaces to sign up for programs like the Fair Food Program or the Agricultural Justice Project's Food Justice Certification (http://agriculturaljusticeproject.org/) that RAFI partners with. The panel also recommended simply donating to organizations with staff that do this type of work - another way to vote with your dollars." We arranged a full week of action during National Farmworker Awareness Week 2015 (March 24-31).

Top Line Results:

  • Food Chains hits #1 on the iTunes Documentary Charts!
  • 65 screenings hosted nationwide during the week - and 100 during the whole month.

Influencer Screenings:

  • The New York Times Hosts Food Chains, the CIW, and Kerry Kennedy for a panel discussion around farmworker rights
  • The AFL-CIO hosts a packed screening of Food Chains in advance of National Farmworker Awareness Week
  • The Sacramento Food Film Festival Closes the Fest with Food Chains! Complete with a talk with Sanjay Rawal
  • Modern Times Book Store is screening the film for local activists and writers in San Francisco

Food Chains Extras!

  • PSA created in partnership with the ILO
  • Earthjustice Featured Food Chains' Short Film on pesticides
  • Strawberry Short released through Civil Eats

National Screening Tour:

  • 60+ screenings hosted across the country
  • Organizers were provided with promotional material
  • Organizers were provided with a custom feedback survey

Organizers Response:

  • "Many [audience members] commented they would no longer eat at Wendy’s and start asking the grocers etc., where they shop where their fruits & veggies are coming from. I’d say all in all it was a success and people left feeling involved, informed and wanting to tell others."
  • "We held a discussion with a panel including 3 farmworkers, one of our medical providers, and a couple of our staff and it went over really well. It was a very lively conversation with lots of good questions."
  • "Discussion included asking our workplaces to sign up for programs like the Fair Food Program or the Agricultural Justice Project's Food Justice Certification (http://agriculturaljusticeproject.org/) that RAFI partners with. The panel also recommended simply donating to organizations with staff that do this type of work - another way to vote with your dollars."

From Crowdraising
to Direct Outreach

In early 2014, Food Chains secured the CIW a $150,000 grant from one of its Executive Producers. Food Chains also supported a number of the CIW’s online crowdsourcing...

From Crowdraising to Direct Outreach

In early 2014, Food Chains secured the CIW a $150,000 grant from one of its Executive Producers. Food Chains also supported a number of the CIW’s online crowdsourcing campaigns. Many donors referenced the film as their inspiration behind their giving. A large funder of both Food Chains and the CIW significantly increased their grant to the CIW after the film was premiered.

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Food Chains has been able to start or elevate conversation in three distinct realms. We targetted the world of food influencers (chefs, organizations and media). We worked to influence government through awareness raising activites at the local, state and national levels. And we focused on raising awareness at the level of the consumer.

Food Chains was featured in actions in support of large corporate buyers of Florida tomatoes which had joined the Fair Food Program and in protests and marches against buyers that hadn't. Some actions were driven by Fair Food Program signatories themselves to highlight their own participation. Protestors against non-participants included low-wage workers, theater goers, students, tomato pickers, members of the CIW and noted food influences. In some cases, non-signatories reacted in direct response to protestors in relation to Food Chains-driven actions. In other cases, the reaction of corporations was associative rather than causal; incremental and cumulative rather than obvious.

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