Equitable Food Initiative Continues to Drive Workforce Development Priorities; Peter O’Driscoll Comments
WASHINGTON, DC - For the individual, the end of the year is a time of reflection and planning, and the same goes for organizations in our industry. After facing challenges presented by the pandemic, the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) is looking back on the progress it made, bringing new insights from its retail partners, growers, workers, and consumers to share as an educational program and through digital resources.
“Like many organizations, the pandemic forced EFI to rethink our strategy and priorities,” said Peter O’Driscoll, Executive Director. “We are committed to improving the lives of farmworkers by helping employers stay ahead of the labor shortage while meeting the quality and fulfillment requirements of their major retail customers. We’ve learned a lot about remote training, employer self-assessment, and farmworker feedback processes that have positioned EFI for growth in 2022 and beyond. We look forward to working with partners across the industry to keep raising the bar on labor practices, food safety, and sustainability.”
In 2021, EFI debuted a four-part webinar series on social responsibility, provided a downloadable social media toolkit for Farmworker Awareness Week, released a Responsible Recruitment Scorecard for employers, and provided leadership to the industry through newsletters. Additionally, as noted in a release, the organization created a Marketing Advisory Council and leadership team committee of workers and managers from its farms to add new voices to EFI’s thought leadership on labor solutions.
Throughout the year, EFI also placed emphasis on digital resources and education, earning over 250,000 impressions and more than 500 direct consumer engagements.
Continuing its mission, EFI is committed to providing resources and tools to the produce industry, working to create better labor practices while maintaining its identity as a skill-building and certification organization. With the addition of 16 new farming operations in 2021, EFI now works with 29 grower-shipper companies on 75 farms, with 49 certifications completed and 26 more in progress.
Through the EFI program, almost 4,000 farmworkers and managers have been trained in problem-solving and communications practices that are raising labor, food safety, and pest management standards for over 57,000 workers. Nearly $3 million in worker bonuses were created this past year by participating retailers, bringing the program total to nearly $13 million.
Additionally, EFI was named one of Walmart’s qualified certifying organizations for its new pollinator health commitment program and Whole Foods Market brought its first EFI-certified product into the Sourced for Good program via GoodFarms’ strawberries.
Cheers to EFI on a year of tremendous growth!