What Are We Really Easting?

What Are We Really Eating? Reporter Goes Undercover to Reveal the Real Story of Our Broken Food System

Tracie McMillan talks about her new book and how she went undercover as a farmhand and worker at Walmart and Applebee’s.
February 23, 2012  |
  Tracie McMillan’s The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table takes us on a vivid and poignant tour of a place we don’t really want to go: the mostly hidden, sometimes horrible world of the workers who form the backbone of our cheap, industrialized food chain. Sound grim? It is, at times, but McMillan’s lively narrative and evident empathy for the people she encounters make her sojourn into the bowels of Big Food and Big Ag a pleasure to read.

From the fields of California’s Central Valley to the produce aisle of a Michigan Walmart, and lastly, the kitchen of a Brooklyn Applebee’s, McMillan gives a firsthand account of the long hours, lousy wages and difficult conditions that are par for the course in these places. This is tricky terrain for a white, relatively privileged middle-class American woman, and McMillan navigates it with grace and humility, remaining acutely aware of the pitfalls inherent in such a project.

I sat down with McMillan recently to chat about her populist odyssey and found her to be just as down-to-earth and plucky as her prose.

Kerry Trueman: What was the hardest part of going undercover?  (Read more)


Finally! Trader Joe’s Signs Fair Food Agreement

By Tara Lohan, AlterNet
Posted on February 9, 2012
Finally! Trader Joe’s Signs on to Fair Food Agreement for Farm Workers

This has been a long time coming, but today the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, which has been working for the rights of farm workers, announced that Trader Joe’s has agreed to take part in CIW’s Fair Food Program to support the rights of Florida’s tomato growers. CIW has spent years bringing horrific abuses of farm workers to light and working with large retailers to make commitments to secure produce that is grown under fair conditions. (You can read a story we published here about the transformation of the Florida tomato industry; and another one here about CIW’s efforts to get Chipotle to join the Fair Food agreement.

Here is the information that CIW released today about Trader Joe’s:

The Fair Food Program is a groundbreaking approach to social responsibility in the US produce industry that combines the Fair Food Code of Conduct – a set of labor standards developed in a unique collaboration among farmworkers, tomato growers, and the food industry leaders who purchase Florida tomatoes – with a small price premium to help improve harvesters’ wages. The goal of the Fair Food Program is to promote the development of a sustainable Florida tomato industry that advances both the human rights of farmworkers and the long-term interests of Florida tomato growers.

“We are truly happy today to welcome Trader Joe’s aboard the Fair Food Program,” said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. “Trader Joe’s is cherished by its customers for a number of reasons, but high on that list is the company’s commitment to ethical purchasing practices. With this agreement, Trader Joe’s reaffirms that commitment and sends a strong — and timely — message of support to the Florida growers who are choosing to do the right thing, investing in improved labor standards, despite the challenges of a difficult marketplace and tough economic times.”

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