Recent Articles About Food and Farm Labor

At a few minutes before 8 a.m. on a weekday morning in Minneapolis, there’s a small crowd of people waiting for the front door of the Seward Community Co-op Friendship Store to slide open for the day. They stand under a sign that says, “Everyone Welcome,” and it seems true when Jerry Williams, a department manager, arrives to unlock the door. “Let me at ‘em!” he says and greets the waiting shoppers like old neighbors, even clasping hands with a few of them before they go inside. Read more

The average American ate more than 90 pounds of chicken last year—more than ever before. At the same time, the United States’ top two chicken producers—Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride—are reaping record sales and profits. Last year, Tyson reported more than $41 billion in sales and double-digit profits while Pilgrim’s Pride’s profits rose 17 percent in the same year. Yet missing from these enthusiastic sales reports is any mention of the enormous toll this industry takes on its workers. Read more

Before I became a journalist, I worked for years in food service. None of the jobs I had paid particularly well. At one coffee shop in a gentrified San Diego neighborhood, I realized I had a better chance of being struck by lightning then getting a raise or benefits so I got fed up and took my complaints to the owners, but they fell on deaf ears. I quit soon after in search of more lucrative work.

I was lucky. Many of the six million people working in the lowest-paying sector of the American economy—the restaurant industry—aren’t in a position to search for something better. In her new book, Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, Saru Jayaraman, cofounder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, shares no shortage of case studies about people trying to survive on meager wages in food service jobs with little or no mobility. Read more

It takes serious sisu to grow food in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sisu is a Finnish word—the peninsula has more people of Finnish descent than any place outside Finland—that translates roughly as fortitude or stoic persistence. It appears on bumper stickers and souvenirs around the U.P., as the region is known. A deep reserve of sisu is a requirement just to get through a U.P. winter, let alone to make a living by farming. Read more

With its focus on dense, whole grain breads, smoked fish, berries, and a high percentage of plants, Denmark’s Nordic diet has been called “the New Mediterranean diet.” Now, it seems that we might also benefit from studying the nation’s larger structural choices when it comes to making food.

From food waste reduction to better treatment of both animals and people working in the its food industry, here are some lessons that the U.S. could afford to learn from this small northern European nation. Read more

Kyle Barnett was a rising star in the restaurant world. The Culinary Institute of America graduate had cooked at a farm-to-table restaurant and eventually landed a high-paying gig as a personal chef at a high-end art studio—a dream job for many. But despite this upward trajectory and his lifelong love affair with food, Barnett says that by 2012 he was just going through the motions. He wanted more. Read more