Everyone deserves food that has integrity—from farm to fork.
The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) is a new project that brings together workers, growers and retailers in the effort to produce better fruits and vegetables. As produce farms comply with EFI standards—for improved working conditions, pesticide management, and food safety—the entire food system sees benefits, all the way from farm workers to consumers.
The produce industry takes food safety concerns seriously, and has developed measures to address them. Most farms are required to comply with a range of generic and retailer-specific standards. But even the most comprehensive third-party audits can only provide a snapshot of compliance levels on a given day.
EFI brings a more comprehensive and continuous level of monitoring: EFI involves farm workers directly in the design and implementation of safety protocols, and trains them to work with management to reduce pesticide and pathogen risks.
This approach creates both an on-farm mechanism and an incentive through which farm workers can work with management to identify and address threats to food safety and social accountability on a continuous basis.
accountablity in the food chain
Consumers want to know that farm workers are treated fairly. A recent survey by the Kellogg Foundation found that 88% of Americans consider it important that workers who harvest their produce are paid a fair wage.
EFI ensures decent treatment of workers through rigorous standards. The heart of the program is training a core Leadership Team of workers and managers. This Team applies labor, pesticide and food safety standards on site, and watches over the entire workforce. The Team learns problem-solving and conflict-resolution techniques to facilitate communication across cultural and language divides.
Once the farm has been certified by a third-party auditor to meet EFI standards, the Leadership Team continues to verify ongoing compliance, thereby reducing the risk of produce contamination, pesticide hazards or labor violations.
EFI presents an opportunity for the produce industry to assure consumers that their fruit and vegetables have been grown and harvested in ways that respect workers and reduce the potential for transmission of food-borne illness.
EFI certification means that the farm workers who harvest and pack fresh produce have been trained to identify and isolate threats to food safety. It also indicates that the workers have access to hygienic facilities and the equipment required to minimize food safety risks.
Because they participate in the design of protocols, farm workers take on a sense of responsibility for the safety of the fruits and vegetables they handle.
And they understand that a better, safer product is good for everyone: worker, employer, consumer.