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On the road to ending human suffering behind the food on our supermarket shelves

By Oxfam
The Behind the Barcodes Food Truck ends its journey at Whole Foods headquarters to ask Whole Foods to reveal the whole story behind their food Photo: Becky Davis/Oxfam America

Oxfam’s Behind the Barcodes Food Truck takes to the streets to serve up food for thought, raising awareness of the inhumane treatment endured by workers who produce the food we purchase from supermarket chains and calling on Whole Foods to take the higher road.   

Did you know that everyday food products you find on supermarket shelves, like seafood, may be produced by millions of people working in dangerous conditions, earning low wages and living in poverty? Worse, while these workers can hardly feed their families, the executives of these supermarket chains are enjoying big profits.

As part of our Behind the Barcodes campaign, Oxfam is driving a food truck from Washington, DC, to Austin, Texas, to expose the human suffering behind the food on supermarket shelves. We’re asking Whole Foods to tell us the whole story behind their food.

What is the Behind the Barcodes Food Truck?

From October 7-15, 2018, Oxfam is driving a food truck from Washington, DC, to Austin, Texas, to raise awareness of the human suffering behind the food on supermarket shelves—even at socially-conscious Whole Foods. In Austin, we will deliver more than 200,000 petition signatures from concerned consumers in all 50 states and 108 countries to Whole Foods’ national headquarters. We are also delivering the same petitions to parent company, Amazon, at their Seattle headquarters. 

Along the way, the food truck is stopping at Whole Foods stores and college campuses, calling on you to join us in advocating for the millions of workers who toil in unsafe conditions and earn poverty-level wages.

What’s on the itinerary?

The Behind the Barcodes Food Truck will be making 10 stops on its way to the Whole Foods headquarters, including Washington, DC, Chicago, and St. Louis. You can track our truck using the hashtag #BehindTheBarcodes. 

The Behind the Barcodes Food Truck is traveling from Washington, DC, to Austin, Texas, to serve up food for thought on the human suffering behind the food on supermarket shelves. Illustration: Oxfam America

What’s driving Oxfam to target Whole Foods specifically?

Earlier this year, Oxfam released our findings on how some of the largest supermarkets tackle critical issues affecting the people producing the food they sell. We did this by assessing publicly available information around how their policies, commitments, and actions affect the workers and farmers—especially women—in their food supply chains.

We discovered that although it has a reputation for being one of the more sustainable supermarkets in the industry, Whole Foods has a lot of work to do improve in terms of supporting women and committing to greater transparency. Whole Foods ranked second to last overall on our scorecard, coming in at 2%—placing it lower than Walmart.

Oxfam believes in a more equal and just food system—one that isn’t built on human suffering, discrimination, and unsafe working conditions.

As one of the biggest supermarkets in the country—and one that claims that they have “an unshakeable commitment to sustainable agriculture”—Whole Foods has a responsibility to take action. No supermarket is too big to ignore its customers. That’s why we’re out to get the whole story.

Oxfam employees protest outside Whole Foods headquarters in Austin, Texas. Photo: Oxfam America

How can Whole Foods get back on track?

Our research shows that Whole Foods has a lot of questions to answer around its seafood sourcing from the Southeast Asia region and whether the rights of workers that supply them are being exploited. Through worker interviews, Oxfam and the Sustainable Seafood Alliance Indonesia found that some of the biggest shrimp processors and exporters supplying big supermarkets like Whole Foods force them to work in inhumane conditions, including excessive working hours for low pay, physical and verbal abuse, and discrimination against women workers.

Oxfam and the more than 200,000 supporters who signed our petitions are asking that Whole Foods commit to:

  • Ending inhumane and dangerous working conditions
  • Fair pay for workers and farmers
  • Safe and decent work for women
  • Joining the Thai-based Seafood Task Force

How can I follow along?​

Check out the hashtag #BehindTheBarcodes on Instagram and Facebook.

How can I help if the food truck isn't stopping in my city?

Sign Oxfam's petition telling major supermarkets like Whole Foods to put an end to human suffering behind our seafood.

Copy and paste sample posts from our social media toolkit and share them on your social media networks. 

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