EFI Offers Resources for Farmworker Protection and Continuity of Supply During Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON – In these times of uncertainty as the world responds to the coronavirus, Equitable Food Initiative has curated a library of best-in-class resources and practices that provides for employee communication during the current pandemic. EFI is a workforce development and skill-building organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumer advocacy groups to promote responsible labor practices and food safety.

EFI has actively worked with its certified growers to learn from their worker-manager teams and generate educational materials to be shared directly with fresh produce growers and farmworkers. The resources can be found at equitablefood.org/coronavirus.

“As EFI-certified farms do everything in their power to keep workers safe while maintaining continuity of supply, they are looking to organizations like EFI to help them navigate this unprecendented situation,” stated LeAnne Ruzzamenti, director of marketing communications for EFI. “To this end, we are offering a variety of resources on our website, including educational materials to distribute to workers and suggested processes for communication, hygiene, distancing and guestworker housing. We hope that the best thinking of worker-manager collaborative teams can assist other growers in keeping their workers safe and their businesses moving forward.”

In putting these resources together, EFI has been able to curate the combined knowledge from worker-manager EFI leadership teams that have been trained in communication and problem-solving skills to comply with EFI standards. During this crisis, these teams have come together to adapt public health guidance to the realities of modern produce production. EFI is making these resources available to help the rest of the industry respond effectively.

Resources available include:

·         Worker education materials in English and Spanish, highlighting preventative measures

·         Guidance and recommended practices culled from industry sources and public health organizations

·         Best thinking from farming operations with EFI worker-manager collaborative teams to create safety measures in response to the coronavirus

Vic Smith, chief executive officer of JV Smith Companies, said, “I have often remarked how thankful I am for the EFI workforce development model and the importance of worker-manager teams but that has never been more evident than during this crisis.” Smith continued, “The ability for these already-established teams to be communicating and solving problems immediately as this issue gained traction has been critical in our ability to not only protect our workers, but continue to serve our customers.”

“The steps we are taking to ensure the safety of our team are evolving nearly every day, and we were happy to share our ideas and systems so that others in the industry can benefit from the thinking of our Process Improvement Teams,” said Marylu Ramirez, human resources manager for Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce/GoodFarms. “Collaborating across the industry and relying on one another’s best thinking is exactly what we all need to help overcome this outbreak.”

Ruzzamenti concluded, “I am proud of the work that EFI-certified farms are doing to keep workers safe and serve as a resource for other grower-shippers around the country. We did not envision that a pandemic would highlight the need for this programming, but we have always understood that a healthy and well-respected labor force is critical to a safer and continuous food supply.”

EFI is encouraging other industry members to share their ideas and resources for this clearinghouse for the greater agricultural community by emailing covidresources@equitablefood.org.

About EFI

Equitable Food Initiative is a nonprofit certification and skill-building organization that seeks to increase transparency in the food supply chain and improve the lives of farmworkers through a team-based approach to training and continuous improvement practices. EFI brings together growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to solve the most pressing issues facing the fresh produce industry. Its unparalleled approach sets standards for labor practices, food safety and pest management while engaging workers at all levels on the farm to produce Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured® fruits and vegetables. For more information about Equitable Food Initiative, visit equitablefood.org.

View a list of EFI-certified farms at equitablefood.org/farms.