Equitable Food Initiative Receives Two-Year Grant From California Workforce Development Board; Lilian Autler, Rafael Aguilera, and Nikki Cossio Share
WASHINGTON, DC - With sustainability and workforce challenges top of mind across the industry, Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) has announced a pivotal move on both fronts as it has received a two-year grant from the California Workforce Development Board awarded in conjunction with Measure to Improve (MTI). Together, the two organizations will work to evaluate improved worker outcomes and reduced greenhouse emissions from new waste reduction efforts.
“Farming operations that have worker-manager collaborative teams and have been trained in communication and problem-solving skills as part of their EFI certification are in a unique position for this project,” said Lilian Autler, Senior Facilitator at EFI and Project Manager for the grant. “They can now apply these skills to sustainability by collaborating to find new ways to reduce materials waste, food loss, and ultimately greenhouse gas emissions.”
The newly awarded grant is part of the California Workforce Development Board’s High Road Training Partnership. The program is a multi-industry state project designed to develop industry-driven partnerships that provide equity, sustainability, and job quality through regional skills strategies designed to support economically and environmentally resilient communities, according to a press release.
A statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work funded through California Climate Investments, the High Road Training Partnership will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health as well as the environment—especially in disadvantaged communities across the Golden State.
“Agricultural producers should be exploring steps to adapt their businesses to the reality of climate,” said Nikki Cossio, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Measure to Improve. “We’ve partnered with EFI to develop a waste reduction initiative as the first step in formalizing a program that tracks and reports sustainability data while connecting employees to the impact their day-to-day work has on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.”
Three EFI-certified farming operations are piloting the Produce & Reduce program: Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce/GoodFarms, Misionero, and Windset Farms. Those participating have shown an eagerness to build on workforce development investments made through the EFI Program while expanding their worker engagement to include sustainability.
The Produce & Reduce program provides timely solutions to address the issue of climate change, in line with the current administration’s climate change mitigation agenda and that of farmers seeing the ramifications of the challenge.
Agriculture is responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California, the release stated. As California regulations become stricter, and as retailers and consumers demand that companies do more to mitigate their environmental impact, waste reduction programs have become a chance to help companies reduce emissions, while engaging its associates.
“Industry-driven collaborations have offered unique insights into sustainability solutions, and we are excited to work within the agriculture space, which plays an important role in California’s economy. It is very exciting to blend workforce development with the state of California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as we work to meet our goals for sustainable and resilient communities,” commented Rafael Aguilera, Field Specialist from the California Workforce Development Board.
As part of the collaboration, EFI has developed a successful skill-building and certification program through which farmworkers and ag employers work together to meet labor, food safety, and pest management standards that address sustainability and social responsibility concerns. Although gaining traction, growers are asking for support to satisfy consumer, retail, and regulatory demand as well.
EFI has partnered with MTI because of its expertise in sustainability and customer success throughout fresh produce. MTI in turn recommended a waste reduction program as a starting point for the grant project in order to engage all employees and help growers reduce costs while also addressing legislative objectives.
As this partnership further evolves to bolster not only our industry’s workforce, but sustainability as well, AndNowUKnow will keep you updated with the latest news.