What is the Fair Food Program?

The Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) oversees implementation of the Fair Food Program (FFP), a unique farmworker- and consumer-driven initiative consisting of:

  • A wage increase supported by a price premium paid by corporate purchasers of Florida tomatoes; and
  • Human-rights-based Code of Conduct, applicable throughout the Florida tomato industry.

The price premium and the Code of Conduct, which were developed by tomato workers, growers, and corporate buyers, form the foundation for a new model of social accountability.

The FFP emerged from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) successful Campaign for Fair Food, a campaign to affirm the human rights of tomato workers and improve the conditions under which they labor. The work of the FFSC has produced a replicable, scalable model for expansion of the Fair Food Program beyond the Florida tomato industry.

What are the major elements of the FFP?

The Fair Food Program consists of several major elements, including:

  • A wage increase supported by the “penny per pound” price premium Participating Buyers pay for their tomatoes;
  • Compliance with the human rights-based Code of Conduct, including zero tolerance for forced labor and sexual assault;
  • Worker-to-worker education sessions conducted by the CIW on the farms and on company time to insure workers understand their new rights and responsibilities;
  • A worker-triggered complaint resolution mechanism leading to complaint investigation, corrective action plans, and, if necessary, suspension of a farm’s Participating Grower status, and thereby its ability to sell to Participating Buyers;
  • Health and safety committees on every farm to give workers a structured voice in the shape of their work environment;
  • Specific and concrete changes in harvesting operations to improve workers’ wages and working conditions, including an end to the age-old practice of forced overfilling of picking buckets (a practice which effectively denied workers pay for up to 10% of the tomatoes harvested), the provision of shade in the fields, and the use of time clocks to record and count all compensable hours accurately; and
  • Ongoing auditing of the farms by the Fair Food Standards Council to insure compliance with each element of the program.

Does the FFP cover all farmworkers harvesting Florida tomatoes or just the members of the CIW?

Nearly all of the members of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange – representing over 90% of the industry – are participating in the FFP. Therefore, all farmworkers harvesting Florida tomatoes for those growers are covered under the Fair Food Program. These growers employ approximately 30,000 workers each year. In 2015, the FFP expanded to the summer operations of Florida-based growers in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, thereby extending the protections of the program to another 10,000 workers.

Which corporate buyers are participating in the FFP?

For a list of Participating Buyers, click here.

How is the FFP monitored?

Beginning in the 2011-12 growing season, the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) oversees implementation of the FFP. The mission of the FFSC is to monitor the development of a sustainable agricultural industry that advances the human rights of farmworkers, the long-term interests of growers, and the ethical supply chain concerns of retail food companies through implementation of the Fair Food Program.

How does the premium (the “penny per pound”) reach the workers?

The Fair Food Program Premium (FFPP)is passed down along the supply chain – from the retail level to the grower level – and ultimately is added as a bonus to workers’ paychecks as part of the grower’s regular payroll process. The FFPP bonus is clearly marked as a separate line item on the worker’s paystub.

Nearly $20 million in Fair Food Program Premiums have been paid out since January 2011. These payments are ongoing, and as more buyers join the program as a result of the Campaign for Fair Food, the bonuses workers receive will grow commensurately. The FFPP payment mechanism for buyers varies. Some have elected to fold the FFPP into the final price they pay for their produce, akin to fair trade premiums, while other buyers issue separate checks directly to participating Florida tomato growers that reflect the amount and variety of tomatoes purchased.

Are the Fair Food agreements legally binding?

Yes, the Fair Food agreements – between the CIW and retailers, and the CIW and growers – are legally enforceable by the CIW.