Jun 28, 2021
Walmart Foundation grant goes to Equitable Food Initiative

Equitable Food Initiative, the workforce development and certification organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumer groups, announced that the Walmart Foundation has awarded it a new one-year grant of $700,000.

The grant builds on a successful prior award to promote responsible recruitment and adoption of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices among produce growers in Mexico.

The new Walmart Foundation funding supports development of a “continuous improvement ramp” program for growers selling to EFI-certified suppliers; a certification program for labor providers to promote responsible recruitment and contracting; and a pilot initiative to measure quality improvements achieved when ethically recruited workers receive skill-building and credentialing services through their EFI-certified employers.

EFI has been building its social assurance program for the past decade and embraced the publication of the Ethical Charter in 2018 as an important industry commitment to elevating labor concerns to the same critical level as food safety. The Ethical Charter’s emphasis on labor-management communication and responsible recruitment aligns well with EFI’s model for building labor-management collaboration by strengthening worker voice and agency.

 “We are excited to support EFI’s work to scale implementation of the Ethical Charter, strengthen the industry and improve conditions for agricultural workers,” Gavin Bailey, senior manager at Walmart Foundation, said in a news release.

The new Walmart Foundation funding supports a program to help growers develop the management systems and communication structures they need to fully implement the principles of the Ethical Charter. It invests in piloting a new certification for labor providers to demonstrate that the workers they deploy have not been subjected to recruitment violations. And since EFI affirms that responsible labor practices actually drive better business performance, the grant will measure improvements in produce quality indicators that can be traced to the inclusion of worker voice and competencies in harvesting and production processes.

“EFI deeply appreciates this support from the Walmart Foundation to expand implementation of the principles of the Ethical Charter, and not just because it’s the right thing to do,” said EFI executive director Peter O’Driscoll. “We believe that workers who are recruited ethically onto farms with safe and dignified working conditions, and who are given the opportunity to gain skills and credentials, can better meet customer demands and improve supplier performance.”

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 here.

Walmart.org represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. To learn more, visit here.

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