On July 15th Organizing Beyond Barriers interns from eight different east coast cities gathered in New Haven for an inspiring day of training and brainstorming on the connection between the labor and sustainable food movements.
First, we heard the facts. Researchers from UNITE HERE laid out the basics of the college food industry and the sustainable food movement. Afterwards, when we broke into groups, we discussed the strong connection between workers’ rights and sustainable food. Even though it seemed pretty obvious to us, it’s clear that these two movements have not been working together–in most places.
Yale is an exception. The most inspiring part of the training came after a delicious lunch in Yale’s Silliman dining hall, where we feasted on sustainably farmed pulled pork and cauliflower salad. This is when we heard from the dining hall workers about how their fight for better jobs worked hand-in-hand with the fight for better, sustainable food at Yale.
Even though I graduated from Yale just a couple months ago, I had never heard the story of how sustainable food came to campus. It was truly inspiring to hear how the strength of the workers in Local 35, who have sustained strike after strike, played a huge role in improving the quality of food on campus. You can’t make thousands of sustainable, fresh cooked meals every day with a corporate approach based on minimal, low-wage staffing and highly processed ingredients. There’s still work to be done in improving both working conditions and quality of food at Yale, and members of Local 35 are continually fighting to do so.
Everyone left the day feeling like we had a lot of work ahead of us, but we also learned that struggle for sustainable food and worker’s rights could work together with real results. And a shout-out to SO Rachel Payne for facilitating a great day.
-Anna, Summer Organizer, New Haven
Summer Organizers from all of California also engaged in a Sustainable Food Training, see photos below!