Walmart's Fair Food Pledge, Animal Welfare Improvements, and More in Food Policy This Week

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.


[Photograph: Coalition of Imokalee Workers]

After Long Campaign, Walmart Signs Deal with Coalition of Immokalee Workers

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is one of the foremost food activist organizations in the country. Their Campaign for Fair Food has formed contracts with companies like Taco Bell, Aramark, Whole Foods, Subway, McDonalds, and more to increase wages for tomato pickers in the growing region of Immokalee, Florida. Their Fair Food Program, which has received praise from the U.N. and the White House, takes the Campaign a step further by including health and safety commitments, auditing, and worker education, among other progressive steps. In a huge win for the Coalition, Walmart just signed onto the Fair Food Program. Their commitment will include expanding the FFP's campaign beyond Florida and into nearby tomato growing regions, extending the campaign to other crops, and meeting all wage and safety commitments of the FFP. This is a big step for the Coalition, whose platform to raise worker wages and improve safety conditions in the fields is at the center of the progressive food movement.

Tom Vilsack Speaks Out on 'Promise Zones' in Rural Areas

In a recent interview on NPR, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed the President's recent announcement of the first five "Promise Zones." These Zones are communities where poverty rates are high, which will receive additional government resources and priority in grant-giving in an attempt to revitalize them. Vilsack made special note that two of the five Zones are in rural areas. He highlighted the fact that about 80% of persistently poor counties in the U.S. are rural, a statistic that is often overlooked by large government programs. He emphasized that the USDA will play a large role in directing the resources allocated to Promise Zones, in cooperation with several other government agencies.

USDA Report Shows Americans Eating 78 Fewer Calories Per Day

In more USDA news, a new report shows that Americans are eating 78 fewer calories per day as compared to five years ago. This drop in calories can be attributed in part to the recession, when many Americans ate more meals at home and fewer meals at restaurants. The report also shows that we're eating less saturated fat and more fiber. The authors attribute some amount of this change to a national attitude shift regarding food and nutrition. This shift could be due to any number of weight loss programs, government initiatives such as Let's Move!, or lower spending on snack and junk food motivated by tighter budgets in the recession. While the change may seem small, the USDA is celebrating this collective slimming as a testament to the many government and educational efforts directed at reducing the national obesity rate.

Tyson Asks Pork Suppliers to Improve Animal Welfare

In a letter to its independent pork suppliers last week, pork giant Tyson asked farmers to improve animal welfare practices as part of its FarmCheck animal well-being program. The improvements include video monitoring of sow farms, discontinuing the practice of using "manual blunt force" to kill sick and injured piglets, and improving the "quality and quantity of space provided" to sows. All of these practices will be monitored in more frequent inspections. Some pork producers spoke out against the letter, claiming that often the public perception of animal treatment on meat farms lacks full information about what practices —such as manual blunt force or tail docking—can be the least painful and most humane way to treat the animals. Tyson's statement comes on the heels of actions by other meat producers, such as Smithfield, to improve animal welfare and safety in their contracted farms.