Focus Area

Fair and Healthy Jobs

Red abstract icon representing focus area Fair and Healthy Jobs

What do we mean by fair and healthy?

When we say “fair and healthy,” we mean that all employees in the food system should receive fair compensation and treatment. They should feel that their role in the food system enables them to live a full, productive, and healthy lifestyle.

Research from BFI affiliated faculty shows that we have a long way to go to achieve this vision.

California’s Central Valley and Central Coast regions see high rates of food insecurity among farm laborers who play an integral role in the state’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry. These farmworkers also bear the brunt of the effects of climate change, the pandemic, and heavy-pesticide use on farms. This is neither fair nor healthy.

According to research from the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, tipped restaurant workers, especially women of color, reported feeling more harassment at work during the pandemic. Many of these workers are single parents surviving on subminimum wage plus tips — inadequate compensation as the cost of living continues to rise. Again, this is neither fair nor healthy.

All participants in the food system workforce — from the farmworkers who grow our food to the restaurant workers who prepare and serve it — should feel that they can provide for themselves and their families. On top of that, they should feel safe at work and free from exploitation.

We are supporting a food systems workforce

We also define a fair and healthy job as one in which employees can contribute to the overall health of the food system, by reducing environmental impacts, increasing nutritional availability and quality, and building community-level wealth for all peoples. We believe that our food systems operate better for people and the environment when we have well trained, well compensated, adapted, and motivated workers.

For that reason, we focus much of our effort not only on pointing out labor injustices but also on building up the food systems workforce through training and career development. Since 2017, we have hosted career panels, workshops, and training geared toward equipping students with the necessary skills to join the workforce in a variety of capacities. Beyond farming or food service, these pathways can include community education, technical assistance, and value-based supply chain management — covering all sectors that represent our food systems.

Now more than ever, we need a competent workforce that can tackle the climate crisis, scale up sustainable agriculture, expand access to affordable and nutritious food, and continue to fight for just and equitable food policies.

— Nathalie A. Munoz and Isabel Martin

“Planting Seeds for a Just and Equitable Food Systems Workforce,” BFI Blog