One Year of Action To End Human Suffering Behind Our Food

One year ago, Oxfam launched the Behind the Price campaign to end the human suffering behind our food. Thanks to you and your support, the campaign has already achieved some big wins. 

No one should have to go hungry to put food on our tables.

Yet we live in a world where the people who produce the food we buy in supermarkets work in unsafe conditions, are subjected to exploitation and harassment on the job, and don’t earn enough to feed their families.

That’s why Oxfam launched the Behind the Price campaign to call attention to this suffering–and demand that it ends.

Consumers Demand Change

Since the campaign launched, hundreds of thousands of people like you have put down their forks and heeded the call to think about where our food comes from and who produces it. In fact, more than 232,200 people in over 100 countries have taken action to end human suffering in our food!

As one of the most powerful actors in the food system, supermarkets have been a key target.

  • In the UK, shoppers delivered letters to supermarket managers.
  • In the Netherlands, consumers and supermarket employees saw spray-painted “Green Graffiti” outside of supermarkets.
  • German supermarket shoppers were met with hearts on Valentine’s Day, while shoppers in Italy took to social media to call on their stores to take action.
  • In the US, a custom-built food truck toured the country, visiting customers along the way and sharing stories about the people behind the food in their grocery stores.
  • Citizens in six West African countries stood up for fair and local milk, backed by musician Oumou Sangaré.
  • In the Philippines, farmers, food workers, and activists banded together on World Food Day (16 October) to urge candidates to ensure basic issues like food security are part of their election platforms.

All of this in one year - and we are just getting started!

Supermarkets Step Up

Consumer action is working: supermarkets have responded by making commitments to tackle the exploitation of food workers and farmers.

Two Dutch companies, Albert Heijn and Jumbo, have made far-reaching commitments on sustainability and human rights. Others, such as German supermarket Aldi South, Tesco in the UK, and supermarkets in Thailand, have made progress on identifying where the risks of human rights violations are in order to better prevent them from occurring. These are important steps on the long road to transforming the global food system so it is fair for everyone–farmers, food workers, and consumers.

Oxfam’s 2019 supermarket scorecard reflects the early stages of progress: almost all companies improved their scores in the past year. Following public actions in several countries against Aldi South, Ahold Delhaize, and Jumbo, these supermarkets are moving up, showing that they are listening to their customers.

But the gap is widening; laggard supermarkets continue to show little or no sign of improvement. Companies like Aldi North, Plus, Lidl, and Whole Foods have taken few, if any, steps to address human rights abuses, leaving them even further behind their competitors.

Real Progress for Seafood Workers in Southeast Asia

Commitments from supermarkets can only go so far - they need to be implemented on the ground to be meaningful. This year we’ve seen some promising progress in the Southeast Asian seafood industry.

In June 2018, working closely with partners in Southeast Asia, Oxfam found evidence of forced labor and inhumane working conditions, including harassment and verbal abuse within the industry, both for fishermen on boats and for women workers in processing plants. Since we published these findings and tens of thousands of people took action, at least three major seafood suppliers in Thailand have actively engaged on the issues and are making commitments to improve worker welfare, such as promoting fair recruitment practices and establishing effective grievance mechanisms for workers.

We will continue to push and support these seafood companies to make further improvements for their workers.

More Work to Be Done

In just one year, there has been significant progress to improve the lives of food workers and producers around the world. We couldn’t have done it without the support of people like you.

But we’re not done yet – we have some exciting plans for 2019.

More work is needed—most supermarkets still rank far too low on Oxfam’s scorecard, meaning they are not doing enough to ensure the workers and farmers who produce their food are treated fairly.

Join the campaign to end suffering in our food! Together, we can ensure that human suffering is never an ingredient in the food we eat.

This entry posted on 10 July 2019, by Oliver Gottfried, Oxfam Senior Campaigns Strategist.

Photo: Campaigners in the Philippines push for food security. Credit: Vin Aranas/GRAISEA2 PMU


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