This past year has been one of wholesome transformation. Not only for the tens of thousands of farmworkers who, for the first time ever, are protecting and defending their rights in the workplace – as the Fair Food Program expanded beyond Florida’s borders into six new states and beyond the tomato industry into two new crops – but also for the thousands of students and young people who fought alongside farmworkers in 2015, celebrating two new Fair Food victories and taking action against Wendy’s and Publix for their shameless disregard for the human rights of farmworkers in their supply chain.
Below we share a look back at highlights from 2015, as well as reflections from Joe Deras and Sarah Ahmed, two SFAers who have put countless time, energy, creativity and commitment into the SFA Steering Committee these past three years, a testament to the youth and student leadership that is built within the Fair Food Nation.
Just days into 2015, the CIW announced a new Fair Food Agreement with specialty grocer The Fresh Market. This 13th agreement introduced two new key provisions to the mix: increased tomato purchases from the Fair Food Program and the commitment to support the Fair Food Standard Council’s monitoring of the Program.
Riding the victory wave from the Fair Food agreement with The Fresh Market, SFAers joined CIW’s Julia de la Cruz on a two-week trek through the Midwest and Northeast, building and strengthening a base of student power at seven universities with Wendy’s on campus to pressure administration to “Boot the Braids.” Throughout the tour – jam-packed with presentations, administration meetings, student gatherings, delegations, actions, and Food Chains screenings – students deepened their commitment to fight for Fair Food on campus and let Wendy’s know that the burger chain is welcome on campus only if they respect the farmworkers who harvest their tomatoes.
During the CIW’s epic Parade and Concert for Fair Food, which brought together thousands of students, young people and community allies in one of the largest marches in Campaign for Fair Food history, SFA declared a national student boycott of Wendy’s! With SFAers at Ohio State University kicking it off, the student-led boycott quickly snowballed to the University of Michigan and Georgetown University and was adopted by members of el Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Atzlan (M.E.Ch.A) during their national conference in April. Since then, thousands of students have pledged to suspend their purchases at Wendy’s restaurants until the fast food holdout stops ignoring its responsibility to join the Fair Food Program.
In late July, CIW announced a landmark development and yet another amazing campaign victory: Ahold USA, parent company of Giant and Stop and Shop became the 14th corporation to sign a Fair Food Agreement! Soon after, the Fair Food Nation pivoted to Ahold’s major grocery counterparts Publix and Kroger, with one resounding message: How much longer will you continue to deny partnership in one of the most respected human rights program in the country?
In September, over 80 students and young people converged in Immokalee for SFA’s annual Encuentro, a long weekend of strategizing in the Campaign for Fair Food, skill-building capacities for on-the-ground organizing and solidifying our network’s solidarity with farmworkers in the struggle for long-awaited justice in the fields.
It was a whirlwind of a year for SFA, and to wrap it up, two recently graduated SFA Steering Committee members, Joe Deras and Sarah Ahmed, share reflections on their experiences as SCers and the importance of investing in this life-giving network.
This past summer, as I reflected on my time on the SC I confessed, “I don’t think I have a community like this back home.” Immediately, Sarah, a fellow SC member, looked at me as said, “ Yeah, I don’t think I have one either.”
These past three years have been the most incredible. As a first-year SC member, I arrived in Immokalee for the first time in January of 2013, not having attended the Encuentro the previous fall, I was meeting my fellow SC members for the very first time. I noticed how everyone already seemed to know each other and how comfortable everyone was with one another. For a moment, I felt intimidated; back then I was a far more shy and introverted individual, and I assumed that this group of people would be like other groups of people I had encountered.
But I was wrong. They were not like any other group of people I had ever come across. I was welcomed with grand smiles and genuine intrigue, they cared about the human. I have never met so many amazing, critical, justice-minded and loving young people as I have through the SFA network. We are a family, and SFA is where we converge to build consciousness and commitment around the farmworker struggle. It is where I learned to be human, it is where I learned to be an organizer, and it continues to be where young woke people come together to fight for farmworker justice.
I believe in the power of young people. And as a monthly sustainer of our incredible work, I know that I'm supporting SFA in developing the leadership of young folks to fight en la lucha! - JOE DERAS, DENVER, COLORADO
Three years on the Steering Committee is both short and long. As this year comes to an end, it's a surreal feeling knowing you're moving on from something that has changed and impacted your life in ways you could never have imagined. SFA is una companer@, we have grown together, personally, professionally, strategically and communally. The commitment of the SFA network facilitates the personal and professional growth of so many students and young people. To have been on the Steering Committee for three years has been incredibly humbling, an experience and opportunity I will always be grateful for.
Nurturing and building friendships, community and familia love for three years has been and continues to be so empowering. Over the years on the SC, we had shared many conversations about what could and should be different, our communities, our dreams, our converging struggles and the power of the Fair Food movement. The relationships built with SCers and SFAers over the years is one of chosen family.
This movement has so much love. So. Much. Love. Love is actually inadequate when it comes to describing this movement. It's the love for the farmworker community and the beautiful SFA network that continues bringing the pieces together, to push our conversations, our strategy, our movement.
While I may no longer be on conference calls every two weeks, I look forward to finally becoming a sustainer because it is our community that has given me the opportunity to love, struggle and grow within SFA. Because of all of our work, our time, our fundraising, our energy, our community, our spirit, our relationships, our struggle for justice for farmworkers, SFA has changed, with a stronger Steering Committee, a stronger and more collective experience, a stronger movement. - SARAH AHMED, HYDE PARK, NEW YORK