Despite ongoing challenges from the pandemic, 2021 was a year of progress for Equitable Food Initiative as it drew strength from its multi-stakeholder approach, bringing new insights from retail partners, produce growers, workers and consumers to share with the industry via an education program and digital resources.
Over the past year, EFI provided a downloadable social media toolkit for Farmworker Awareness Week, released a Responsible Recruitment Scorecard for employers to assess forced labor risk and provided thought leadership to the produce industry and consumers via newsletters. It also created a Marketing Advisory Council.
Produce & Reduce Team meeting at Misionero.
EFI placed new emphasis on digital resources and education yielding excellent results, including more than 250,000 impressions and more than 500 direct consumer engagements. The organization’s Farmworker Awareness Week Communications Toolkit was downloaded hundreds of times, and more than 100 organizations participated in the campaign. EFI’s free Responsible Recruitment Scorecard has been accessed by more than 30 organizations.
EFI is committed to providing the produce industry with tools and resources to undertake a continuous improvement journey toward better labor practices, but its core identity is still as a skill-building and certification organization. After engaging 16 new farming operations this year, EFI now works with 29 grower-shipper companies on 75 farms, with 49 certifications completed and 26 more in progress.
Through the EFI program, nearly 4,000 farmworkers and managers (of which nearly 40 percent are women) have been trained in problem-solving and communications practices that are raising labor, food safety and pest management standards for more than 57,000 workers.
Worker-manager collaborative team at GoodFarms’ Baja California operation.
Thanks to EFI’s leadership in education and training, organizations throughout the United States are taking notice of its strong certification standards. EFI was named as one of Walmart’s qualified certifying organizations for the new pollinator health commitment program, and Whole Foods Market brought its first EFI-certified product into the Sourced for Good program with GoodFarms’ strawberries. EFI also received several grants, including ones from the Walmart Foundation and the California Workforce Development Board, to help EFI advance research and programming related to responsible recruitment, labor practices and sustainability.
“Like many organizations, the pandemic forced EFI to rethink our strategy and priorities,” said Peter O’Driscoll, executive director for EFI. “We are committed to improving the lives of farmworkers by helping employers stay ahead of the labor shortage while meeting the quality and fulfillment requirements of their major retail customers.”