Global Food Week – Why Fairfood is working on living wages

13 October 2015

In light of the Global Food Week, our Living Wage expert Wendy Schutte wrote the following blog about the importance of living wages.

What did you have for dinner last night? There is a good chance that at least one of the ingredients in your meal came from the other side of the globe. Think about the spices you used, the fruit you had as a desert or the vegetables you cooked.  Many of the products that we consume on a daily basis are grown, picked, processed or packed by people in the Global South.

These food workers often struggle to make ends meet because the wages they earn are so low. For many of them, the bizarre reality is that they often cannot afford the food they are surrounded by the whole day. Workers in the Thai shrimp processing industry for example, can only dream of eating something as luxurious as seafood. In fact, they have difficulty enough to feed themselves and their families.

Win, a fourty year old woman that peels shrimp, shared with Fairfood that she spends most of her salary on rent and food, and that she has to buy food on credit at the end of each the pay period. Watch Win’s story:

With such low wages, the meals these workers cook are of poor quality. Fatima, a mother of five that works in the Moroccan tomato industry, told us that the food she prepares for her children is not sufficiently nutritious, which leaves them prone to malnourishment, as tomato picker Fatima explains in this video:

The consequences of poverty wages are far-reaching for workers and their communities: workers are left with no other option than to work excessive overtime and send their children to work instead of school in order to provide for their basic needs. A ‘living wage’ on the other hand, covers a decent standard of living for workers and their families. Elements of a decent standard of living include sufficient nutritious food, decent housing, education, health care, transport, clothing and other essential needs. Living wages contribute to a things as improved access to education, healthcare and nutritious food, which enables workers to lift themselves, and even their communities, out of poverty.

Fairfood is convinced that nobody wants to eat food that is produced by workers who are not able to put enough food on their own tables. That is why we launched a campaign to call upon supermarkets, a major food sales channel in Northern Europe, to ensure that workers in their supply chains earn a living wage.

Read more about our work on Living Wages.