Food justice activists hold rally & deliver over 100,000 petition signatures urging Aramark to transition to a more just and sustainable food supply model
PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Community Coalition for Real Meals, an intergenerational, multiracial group of farmers, fishers, ranchers, activists, students, and food workers, held a rally at Aramark headquarters and delivered a petition signed by over 100,000 people today. The petition’s message is clear: Stop placing profits over people and the planet, and prioritize a more just and sustainable business model.
Big Food corporations such as Aramark are complicit in many of our biggest problems: climate change, economic inequality, and racial injustice. The petition calls on Aramark to stop serving food from corporations that exploit workers, harm the environment, and produce unhealthy food, and urges Aramark to “be an active force for good working conditions, environmental sustainability, and racial justice.”
“Aramark’s business model of entering into exclusive contracts with huge corporate food manufacturers pushes farmers and fishers off the land and water, perpetuates racial injustice, and drives down wages, while driving up chronic disease and carbon emissions,” said Navina Khanna, Director of coalition member HEAL Food Alliance, a national alliance of over 50 food and farm justice organizations. “Their destructive practices are a threat to our collective future, and hit communities of color first and worst.”
The rally featured a flash mob and a diverse group of speakers including black farmers, fishermen, university students, and local and national community activists who have been directly harmed by Aramark’s unjust business practices.
“For black and brown farmers, Aramark’s market has not been a good place,” said Phillip Barker, farmer and founder of Operation Spring Plant, a non-profit that provides services to limited resource and small family farmers of color. “We are asking Aramark to use its power to invest in infrastructure that supports independent black and brown family farmers. Without some change in the way Aramark does business, the playing field will never be level.”
“We’re calling for fair prices,” said commercial fisherman and Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) board member, Jason Jarvis. “Unprecedented corporate consolidation in the seafood industry denies fishermen a fair price that covers their costs to produce seafood and limits consumer choice in our schools and universities. These corporate business practices are eroding the economic infrastructure of our rural and coastal communities while causing damage to the ocean. Food service corporations, like Aramark can turn the tide by committing to real meals that include fair contracts.”
“As a student, I have seen firsthand how Aramark signs contracts with universities without the input of students who have to eat the food Aramark provides,” said Ofelia Sanchez, a student at the University of South Florida where Aramark has a contract. “Aramark upcharges students — many of us whom are food insecure and struggling under a ton of debt — for low-quality food. And they mistreat campus workers, some of whom are students themselves. That is why we are here today — to tell Aramark to stop exploiting students, workers, and producers for profit!”
Other speakers included Anim Steel, Executive Director of Real Food Generation, Julianna Fischer, Community Organizer at NAMA, and Charlyn Griffith, Artist and Social Scientist, Wholistic Art.
Today’s action is part of the Real Meals Campaign, an effort to pressure Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass Group — the country’s three largest food service management corporations — to make major changes in their higher education accounts, including:
- Purchasing at least 25% of its food from sources that are local & community based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane;
- Investing $1 million in infrastructure for – and increase purchasing from – farmers and fishers of color;
- Reducing carbon emissions and factory-farmed meat, poultry, and cheese purchases by 25%;
- Cutting out the kickbacks that lock in big food manufacturers and lock out everyone else; and
- Creating and maintaining transparency and accountability to these goals.
This is the first campaign to tackle higher education’s Big Food problem, not campus by campus or product by product, but at the source: the cafeteria management companies.