Health Food, at Whose Expense?

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies coverNPR’s The Salt recently featured an interview with Seth Holmes, author of Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, about the unfair and unsafe conditions faced by migrant workers who provide Americans with fresh fruit and vegetables. During his research in the field, Holmes traveled with migrant farmworkers back and forth from Oaxaca, Mexico and up the West Coast, eventually crossing the border illegally through Arizona and getting arrested. He lived with indigenous Mexican families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the United States, planted and harvested corn, accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals, and mourned at funerals for friends.

In the interview, Holmes reflects on why Americans tend to be largely ignorant of the plights of those who pick our produce:

Do you think that the American public cares about the labor required to produce our food?

We talk so little about the people who do the work that gives us the fresh fruit and vegetables that we want. Farmworkers are pretty hidden, and there’s a concept from Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher, called bad faith, meaning self-deception. My simplified version of that is that we consciously hide from ourselves the difficult realities of the workers. We somewhat know them, but we don’t think about them much. In that way it seems like ‘communal bad faith.’

Next time you shop, you can support farmworkers by patronizing the farms on this list, who provide their workers with health coverage and good working conditions.