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The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), originally spearheaded by Oxfam, is a new food certification system that aims to ensure safer and healthier food for consumers; improve working conditions for farmworkers; and be profitable for farmers, retailers, and food service providers.
EFI is a unique partnership among businesses and organizations that have come together to develop standards, training processes, and a food certification system to protect farmworkers and produce safer, healthier food. This approach creates additional value and quality throughout the food system, benefiting workers, growers, retailers, and consumers alike.
EFI seeks to improve the quality of fresh produce and create more value in the food system. The core EFI program certifies the achievement of key standards for working conditions, pesticide use, and food safety.
EFI was created by a consortium of major food buyers, growers, farmworker groups, and consumer advocates to ensure:
- A dignified livelihood for farmworkers
- A stable and professionally trained agricultural workforce for growers
- Safer food produced with sustainable methods for retailers and consumers
Oxfam spearheaded the formation of EFI, and incubated it for several years. EFI spun off from Oxfam in 2015, and is currently operating as an independent nonprofit organization. EFI-certified produce reached grocery shelves in 2015.
Values: Assurance, accountability, safety
Everyone deserves safe food and a safe workplace. The best way to ensure both is to produce food that has integrity, from farm to fork.
By training and empowering farmworkers and growers to reduce food safety risks, pesticide use, and health hazards in the fields, EFI has created higher levels of assurance that add value throughout the fresh produce system.
EFI’s approach creates both an on-farm mechanism (worker leadership teams) and an incentive (improved working conditions assured by the standards) through which farmworkers can work with farm managers to identify and address threats to food safety and social accountability on a continuous basis.
EFI aims to establish a certification system that is trusted by workers, growers, retailers, food service companies, and consumers, until it becomes the food industry norm.
Farmworkers will be empowered and respected in a system that produces healthier, safer, and more sustainable food. Growers and farmworkers will enjoy viable careers and fair compensation. Retailers and food service companies will realize the value inherent in greater assurance that safer food is being produced on farms that treat workers with dignity. Consumers will enjoy safer food and receive assurances about the conditions in which it was produced.
EFI’s model of labor-management collaboration will create opportunities for grower-specific strategies to increase quality, productivity, and employee retention.
Current members of the EFI include:
- Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce International
- Bon Appétit Management Company
- Calvert Investments
- Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Consumer Federation of America
- Costco Wholesale Corporation
- Farmworker Justice
- Farm Labor Organizing Committee
- National Farm Worker Ministry
- Oxfam America
- Pesticide Action Network North America
- Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Tree-Planters and Farmworkers United)
- United Farm Workers
On the Front Lines of Food Safety, The New York Times, May 25, 2013
"With piles of fresh strawberries beckoning consumers at markets and stores this season, an alliance of a major retailer, fruit growers and farm workers has begun a program to promote healthy produce and improve working conditions."
'Culture-Changing' Initiative to Stop Food Contamination on the Farm, NBC News, August 19, 2013
"Will you pay more for this produce? Not at Costco. The company pays a premium for those A&W strawberries and that 'bonus' is shared with everyone on the farm, but it’s not passed along to Costco shoppers because it saves money in the long-run. ...'This is a good business decision,' said Jeff Lyons, Costco’s senior vice president for fresh foods. 'Food safety is critical to our members.'"
Standing with Farmworkers Still Important Today, National Catholic Reporter, October 7, 2013
"The initiative ... promises to guarantee restaurant and grocery chains quality produce with no waste in return for high enough pay that the laborers can afford to reject the overripe fruit that would spoil a whole container. Nicholson says it's like the auto manufacturers coming to see that benefits outweighed the costs of airbags. Companies like Costco recognize the benefit of paying fruit pickers for quality."