This Week’s Food News: Not a Pretty Picture
There were two things worth talking about this week in national food news. While we have now become inundated with pictures of people’s dinner plates, actual food news often goes missed.
First is this article from Mother Jones titled “Only 13.5% of Food Workers Earn A Living Wage.” I like that this article doesn’t delve into the muddy waters of immigration issues, but focuses instead on the facts and figures, as well as the food chain issues. With quotes from Joann Lo, Executive Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the article at the very least left me feeling a bit more educated about how payments work in that industry and what workers contend with. (…Nevermind that the national cost of a two bedroom place is $949 apparently…..I hate you California living cost!)
Also interesting is the point made about how the higher end players of that food supply chain, stores such as Walmart, are bearing down on the lowest level of the food chain. We kinda knew that already, didn’t we? But, then I think I didn’t really know how far down the evils of Walmart (hyperbole, yes, but…) filters.
Ultimately, I think one of the strongest points of the report- albeit a point said in passing - is that the public and the labor market consider these workers “low skilled”, though that may very well not be the case. Hard work and long hours aside (which could qualify as “just labor”), yes I do want my butcher at the slaughter house to have the skills of knowing how to cut an animal correctly…because it could affect my health.
When did this shift happen, I wonder? When did we stop valuing the important things? I think there’s still butchers and bakers and farmers out there who are valued and skilled, running small businesses in small communities. They are honored for their craft by their neighbors and respected. They’re also found back east in the big cities, and I know they still abound even more profoundly in Europe and the UK.
But, Iis it just an issue of mass? Get enough farmers together working and they just become “workers” or “laborers”. Line up enough men with knives in a slaughterhouse and they just become..well, slaughterers, rather than the more skilled “Butcher”?
I think what I’m trying to say is really just that it may be time to reassess what we value and rank as “skill” in our society. We have stopped valuing teachers the way we used to; we have stopped respecting- no, KNOWING- the people who grow our food; yet, we have allowed robber barons take large portions of our monies in their “high-skilled” jobs through failure and deceit. That’s not my definition of highly skilled.
As the article asserts, there ARE people in the industry who are not only paying livable wage, but making money as businesses, AND (as if that wasn’t enough) supporting locally grown and sustainable food efforts. Which means that it’s just a choice, people. It’s a choice about what and who we choose to value.
The second piece of news is about the Farm Bill that passed through the Senate. I was going to delve into this here as well. But, I think this is a bigger topic and should be left to tackle in a more in-depth post concurrently. Stay tuned…(that picture may be prettier…)