Most people know Eva Longoria as an actress, but she has also become a fierce advocate for our nation’s farmworkers.
Longoria also has cred in both food and politics. She owns Beso, a restaurant which opened in in Hollywood in 2008, and she is an active democrat. As co-chair of President Obama’s fundraising committee, Longoria created the Latino Victory Project, which raises funds for Latino candidates.
Along with Eric Schlosser, Longoria served as the executive producer of Food Chains, a documentary that focuses on the brutal conditions farmworkers face, and shines a light on migrant tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida. The film, which opened Friday in select theaters, brings the story of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a group at the center of the current struggle in Florida, to a wider audience.
The documentary debuted to positive reviews. The New York Times described it as “emphatic and empathetic,” while The Village Voice recognized that “the film fosters a very human connection to these [tomato] pickers.” We spoke with Longoria over the phone on the eve of Food Chains’ release.
It seems like the issues that migrant farmworkers face in the United States has been an interest of yours for a while. You also produced 2011’s The Harvest [a documentary on agricultural child labor in America]. Where does that interest come from?
I have always been interested in this issue because I eat food. We all eat food. Agriculture is the backbone of our country. We are now at a time where people are so aware of what they eat. People are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, but we forget who makes our food. The human cost of our food isn’t really discussed.
I first heard about Food Chains in 2012 when [director] Sanjay Rawal was raising funds via Kickstarter. At what point in the process did you jump on as executive producer and what led to that decision?
Sanjay had been filming for about a year when he showed me some of the footage. I thought it was such a powerful story. The CIW went on a hunger strike for six days in 2012 and it set up a really great narrative for the film with a middle, beginning, and end. A lot of times, documentaries miss out on the emotion and humanity of the issue, but Food Chains tells a very powerful story.
Food Chains touches on a harrowing topic, but it’s fair to say there are some glimmers of hope, right?
Absolutely. The great thing is that CIW’s Fair Food Program is working. Sure, it is one harvest and one state, but it is totally scalable and applicable. And, it brings economic benefits to any company that adopts it. Farms that are part of the Fair Food Program have lower turnover and people like working there because they are paid and treated fairly. It makes economic sense and that’s the bottom line. It’s not a matter of: “Is the program going to work?” We know it does.