May 14, 2020: A report released by Real Food Generation, a national organization mobilizing young people around food justice, reveals how major cafeteria contractors like Aramark monopolize the cafeteria industry, hurting the communities they claim to serve. The report, entitled “Be-Trayed: How Kickbacks in the Cafeteria Industry Harm Our Communities -- And What To Do About It,” shines a light on long-hidden business practices that have rendered the food system rigid and unable to respond to crises like the one brought about by COVID-19.
While our country faces the crippling effects of a pandemic, the White House has issued anExecutive Order with a dangerous set of measures that would deregulate the fishing industry, expedite the development of offshore factory fish farming, and promote seafood exports. Instead of strengthening our domestic seafood system by protecting fisheries and building the infrastructure that fishing communities need right now, the provisions in the Order would do exactly the opposite ― undermine marine ecosystems and increase our reliance on international markets. The Trump Administration is also blatantly ignoring the public health risks of holding animals in captivity in high concentrations, in spite of evidence that such operations are breeding grounds for diseases and that viruses such as COVID-19 have originated from the captivity of animals in close confinement.
On May 4, 2020, hundreds of independent fishermen along with small and mid-sized seafood businesses across the country and their allies sent a letter to the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Agriculture, and Congress urging for increased federal support for America’s fishing communities. Representatives from Alaska, the West Coast, the Gulf, and New England spoke out in an accompanying video message. Their message underscored growing concerns about the impacts of COVID-19 on small and mid-scale seafood producers and called on the Trump Administration and Congress to address the increasingly urgent situation facing fishing communities nationwide.
LOCAL CATCH NETWORK OFFERS SOLUTIONS DURING COVID-19 CRISIS
North American network of community-based seafood businesses steps up during a time when consumers are relying more on local and direct seafood supply chains.
This week, the Local Catch Network launched a coordinated effort to support the growing demand for locally caught and direct-marketed seafood as well as the growing challenges spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. With an increasing number of U.S. households seeking out local sources of food and home delivery options, the network - comprised of over 500 fishermen, organizers, researchers, and seafood eaters - is helping make it easier for seafood producers and consumers to connect as well as adapt with innovative online seafood locator tools and digital forums.
NAMA is one of 577 signatory organizations including energy and environmental justice groups, clean energy and anti-fossil fuel climate organizations, faith and community leaders, labor activists, health workers and physicians, and legal clinicians.
It is more important than ever to stand with the millions of Americans saddled with mounting utility burdens as they now face essential utility shut-offs in these uncertain times. We recognize that there are many governors, mayors and utility commissions that have made the right choice regarding shut-offs, waiver of late payment fees and reconnections. However, we know that these moratoria are band-aids that do not address the inequities forcing socially marginalized communities to this breaking point in the first place. Moreover, not all moratoria are created equal; even the ones that have been implemented vary wildly in scope, duration, interconnection, and application. We must continue to demand robust and long-term protections.
Through no fault of their own, farmers, ranchers, fishermen and all food producers are facing a crisis unlike any they have ever seen, encountering new threats to their production and markets sparked by COVID-19 while they endure a multi-year slump in prices for their goods, volatile trade disputes, frequent natural disasters, and climate disruption. What’s clear is that no farmer should lose their farm and no fisherman should lose their boat because of the crisis sparked by COVID-19, and farm, fish and food workers should likewise not lose their livelihoods.
FAMILY FOOD PRODUCERS AND ANTI-HUNGER ADVOCATES URGE SUPPORT FOR LOCAL SUPPLY CHAINS IN NEXT STIMULUS BILL
Call for funds to directly invest in communities to build out critical infrastructure between local and regional food producers and families in need of healthy food
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), Farm Aid, WhyHunger, HEAL Food Alliance, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) commended Congress for quick passage of an initial COVID-19 pandemic relief bill and called on legislators to take an additional step to not only address the current crisis but invest in a future that minimizes food insecurity and ensures the continuity of the essential services that farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and related food businesses provide. The organizations--made up of family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food workers across rural, urban, and indigenous communities advocating for sustainable agriculture and fisheries, and food security--pointed to many recent innovations in regional farm, ranching, and fishing infrastructure that enable producers to provide healthy food to their local communities, especially those experiencing food insecurity, in the midst of this crisis and into the future by using their existing infrastructure to deliver local and minimally processed food to a growing number of individuals facing food insecurity.
Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) has introduced a bill that would authorize the federal government to issue permits for industrial ocean finfish farms. These facilities would use giant floating cages to cultivate fish in ocean waters all around the U.S. coast. Chemicals, diseases and untreated waste from these farms flow into the open ocean and pose environmental hazards and health risks to people and wildlife and threaten the livelihood of local fishermen and coastal communities.
NAMA is urging NOAA to reject the sale of Carlos Rafael’s groundfish fleet to Blue Harvest Fisheries, a seafood business owned by a hedge fund. This deal is clearly against the best interests of the public and our fisheries.
Two years ago, we applauded the conviction and sentencing of Carlos “Codfather” Rafael for seafood fraud and tax evasion, but warned about the risk that his assets would be sold to another seafood mogul or big corporation, leading to yet another single player controlling too much of the seafood supply chain and thus jeopardizing the integrity of the seafood economy and marine ecosystem. We recommended that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seize all of Mr. Rafael’s boats and permits, and reallocate his fishing quota to a diverse range of fishermen across the New England region, excluding any individuals or entities that control an excessive share (2% or greater) of quota for any groundfish species.