If you've ever purchased an out-of-season tomato from a grocery store, there's a very, very good chance that your tomato was picked by a slave. In the United States. In or around the region of Immokalee, Florida.
It's shocking, isn't it? Slavery was abolished in this country, but the problem persists. The workers that are not enslaved, threatened with beatings, or held against their will, often live in sweatshop-like conditions in trailers, sheds, and homes in the region. It's no way to live, and it's entirely unacceptable that lawyers still deal with an average of 10-12 slavery cases at any given time. (Still not convinced? Meet Antonio, a former slave who escaped.)
But the good news here is that there's actually something we can do about it.
I've often described myself as a philanthropist by day and gourmet home cook by night. This is the line that appears on my bio in various virtual places, and describes as succinctly as possible what it is I do with my time. I've mentioned briefly before that last year I started a website called The Giving Table that enables everyone to become a food philanthropist. As people who care about food, love food, and think about food more than the average person, I believe giving back is a natural progression in our culinary journey.
When I learned that International Justice Mission was launching Recipe for Change, a summer campaign in that tackled the U.S. food system, I didn't hesitate. Food Bloggers for Slave-Free Tomatoes was created within a matter of hours, and if you visit any of your favorite blogs today, there's a good chance you'll see a similar post. We're all joining together to do something about it, and that's where you come in.
Recipe for Change is targeting three major supermarket chains this summer (Ahold, Publix and Kroger’s), and asking its CEOs to support the Fair Food Program. Corporations that join agree to pay a small price increase for fairly harvested tomatoes (1.5 cents more per pound), and promise to shift purchases to the Florida tomato growers who abide by these higher standards–and away from those who won’t.
Major fast food companies, like McDonalds and Subway, have already endorsed the Fair Food Program, but the largest U.S. supermarket chains have yet to support this collaborative effort to eradicate modern-day slavery.
Despite the enormity of this problem, there is a solution. Supermarkets can help eliminate slavery and other serious abuses from the tomato supply chain when they join the Fair Food Program. But in order to change its policies, CEOs need pressure from consumers.
Each one of you can help make a tangible difference in our food system by doing two things.
2. Commit to buying tomatoes from the stores (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's) that support the Fair Food program.
SLAVE-FREE TOMATO FLATBREADS // ANCHOVY OIL, GOAT CHEESE, CHIVES
Anchovy oil adapted from Food & Wine
1 pizza dough (use your favorite recipe)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
4 anchovy filets
Salt and Pepper
1-2 tablespoons fresh chives, plus more for garnish
Cornmeal, for dusting
2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
Preheat a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for at least 30 minutes.
On a floured cutting board, cut the dough in half and gently press each piece into a thin oval. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you make the anchovy oil.
In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until the anchovies have mostly dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the chives.
Pull out the pizza stone and dust with cornmeal. Place the flatbreads down and brush generously with the anchovy oil. Top with slices of tomatoes and scatter each with goat cheese before putting in the oven. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until the dough bubbles and the crust is golden brown. Top with extra chives before cutting and serving.