Fast for Fair Food at Publix Headquarters

March 5-10

By Noelle Damico, Presbyterian Hunger Program, partnering with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

photo from protest of Trader Joe's“Is this not the fast that I choose? To loose the bonds of injustice…” cries God through the prophet Isaiah! The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has announced that on Monday, March 5th, fifty farmworkers and their allies from the faith, student, and sustainable food communities, will undertake a Fast for Fair Food at Publix Grocery headquarters in Lakeland, FL. The 6-day fast will conclude on Saturday, March 10th, as fair food allies rally at a nearby Publix location and then process 3.5 miles to Publix headquarters where they will join fasters in a celebration to break the fast.

From a spiritual perspective, the fast will draw attention to the brokenness in our human community and our food system that leads exploitation of our farmworker-neighbors. As people of faith we will heed God’s call to renew covenant relationships of justice with our neighbors and urge Publix to recognize its connection and responsibility not only to its customers, but also to the farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes it sells.

It is significant that the 6-day fast includes allies and not just farmworkers who harvest Publix’s tomatoes. As consumers we are connected to farmworkers whenever we purchase produce at Publix. Currently our purchasing fuels farmworker exploitation as Publix squeezes growers for the lowest possible cost, and that cost is born by farmworkers in their poverty wages and working conditions. Fasting with the workers demonstrates our awareness of this connection and our commitment to working together with the CIW to be, as Isaiah puts it, “repairers of the breach” (Is. 58:12)

While some faith allies will be fasting for 6 days, others may choose to fast for shorter periods of time or choose to fast from purchasing at Publix grocery during this time. If you are able, join the fasters during the week of March 5 – 10; visit them, pray with them, join the rally and procession and fast-breaking ceremony on March 10th.

For several years the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Presbyterians across Florida and the nation have called on Publix to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program which is supported by 9 corporations and over 90 percent of Florida growers. But despite a working, proven model that is improving farmworker wages and advancing human rights in the fields, Publix has not responded positively. You can read more about the CIW’s responses to Publix statements and actions in 2011 and 2012.

Change does not just “happen.” As the CIW’s motto goes, “consciousness + commitment = change.” We have seen the dawning of that change through the Fair Food Program and the improvement of farmworkers’ wages and rights. Presbyterians are praying for Publix, communicating with Publix through postcards and manager’s letters, and now, are invited to fast with the farmworkers. Together may we “break every yoke” (Is. 58:6).

A Success!
On Thursday, February 9, 2012, Trader Joe’s signed a Fair Food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, making it the tenth company to join the Fair Food program that is improving wages and conditions for farmworkers, guaranteeing corporate accountability and ensuring consumer confidence.

Trader Joe’s just opened its first store in Naples, Florida. On Sunday, the mass rally that was once focused on the Monrovia California-based grocery chain, marched by the store in celebration and then, onto a local Publix grocery store and rally there. Florida-based Publix has thus far refused to work with the CIW.

Across the country, 33 cities that were slated to rally outside of Trader Joe’s grocery stores are celebrating this victory for human rights and shifting their rallies to local Publix, Kroger, and Ahold-owned stores.

As you celebrate this agreement between Trader Joe’s and the CIW, take a moment to let the company know that they’ve done the right thing. Many of us have dropped off a manager’s letter before, so this time, write your own manager’s letter commending the company and drop it off when you next shop at Trader Joe’s.

And let us renew our commitment to bringing the entire supermarket industry into the Fair Food Program. As the prophet Amos cried, “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!”

Take Action for Fair Food!
Read the Statement by the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and Linda Valentine, Executive Director, General Assembly Mission Counsel, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


photo of noelle damico
The Rev. Noelle Dam­ico is the Asso­ciate for Fair Food within the Pres­by­ter­ian Hunger Pro­gram, where she assists Pres­by­te­ri­ans in edu­ca­tion and action that ensure food, human rights and just social rela­tion­ships. She facil­i­tates the denomination’s involve­ment in the Cam­paign for Fair Food, our part­ner­ship effort with the Coali­tion of Immokalee Work­ers to advance human rights and socially respon­si­ble pur­chas­ing in the food indus­try, and sits on the Gen­eral Assem­bly Mis­sion Coun­cil human traf­fick­ing round­table. A pub­lished author of bib­li­cal, the­o­log­i­cal and litur­gi­cal resources, she is a con­trib­u­tor to the new “Preach­ing God’s Trans­form­ing Jus­tice” lec­tionary com­men­tary, pub­lished in August 2011 by Westminster/John Knox.  She is mar­ried to the Rev. Jef­frey Geary, pas­tor of White Plains Pres­by­ter­ian Church and they live with their five year old son, August Xavier, in White Plains, New York.
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