Food for Thought: An Exploration of Eating and Worker Organizing
Though you can’t be a card-carrying foodie if you don’t know the provenance of your heirloom tomato, you apparently can be one if you don’t know how the members of your wait staff are treated.”
—Mark Bittman, New York Times Opinionator column
Ethical eating means more than local and organic ingredients — it means supporting the people throughout the food chain who bring food to your table. Come to Chicago, a nexus of America’s food industry and economy, to learn how to use your power as a consumer to improve the lives of U.S. food workers.
Working with the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago, a UUSC partner, you will learn about labor history, the injustices of the restaurant industry, and innovative organizing strategies. You will meet directly with workers and organizers and take part in on-the-ground action. This hands-on experience will give you the knowledge and skills you need to choose compassionate consumption and support people at the forefront of change in the food industry — and the drive to get involved when you return home.
You are not what you eat. In this interconnected world, I am what you eat, we are what you eat, and worker’s lives are affected by what I eat, and Earth’s climate is what we all eat.”
—Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh, Director of Cong Development, Massachusetts Bay District, UUA
Note: You must be at least 18 years old to participate in this program.
- April 29–May 3, 2014; register by February 16, 2014
Please note: Schedule your arrival by 5:00 p.m. on the first day and your departure after 2:00 p.m. on the last day.
Cost: $750 per person, not including transportation to and from Chicago. Price includes all lodging, local transportation, all meals (with the exception of one dinner at a “high road” restaurant), speaker fees, entrance fees, and the guidance of experienced facilitators. Cost excludes alcohol and any snacks or personal items you purchase.
Reduced pricing may be available on request for young adults, fellowshipped ministers, religious education professionals, and seminarians. Congregational groups of three or more participants may be eligible for a five percent discount. In addition, financial assistance is available by application for those with demonstrated financial need. All discounts are contingent on the availability of funding and are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
Discounts available: $565 for ministers and other religious professionals, $375 for seminarians and young adults 35 and under.
Accommodations and Meals
Participants will stay at the downtown Hostelling International Chicago (24 E. Congress Parkway) in two-person dorm rooms with shared bathrooms; a limited number of singles available for an additional fee. The hostel provides easy access to downtown attractions and public transportation.
Breakfast will be served at the hostel. All other meals will be at local restaurants or catered.
The program includes some walking and standing. Program leaders will work to make reasonable accommodations for those with mobility limitations. The hostel is fully wheelchair accessible. If you have concerns about the appropriateness of this trip for you, please contact UUCSJ.
For general orientation to and understanding of restaurant worker organizing and the issues facing restaurant workers, we ask that you read these writings before the program:
“Food for Thought,” a blog post by Ariel Jacobson that examines the historical and sociological roots of UUCSJ’s Food for Thought program.
Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman, cofounder and codirector, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.
To learn more about UUSC’s work on this issue, visit the Choose Compassionate Consumption website.
The UUA offers many resources on ethical eating.
The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) was launched in January 2008 to improve wages and conditions for restaurant workers in the United States. With a membership of more than 10,000 restaurant workers in nine affiliates throughout the country, including ROC Chicago, ROC-United conducts workplace justice campaigns, supports job training and placement, and publishes groundbreaking reports on the restaurant industry.
Jose Oliva is the networks director for the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a national organization of restaurant workers. Founder of the Chicago Interfaith Workers’ Center, he has also served as coordinator for the Workers’ Alliance for a Just Economy, a program of the Center for Community Change; coordinator of Interfaith Worker Justice’s National Workers’ Centers Network; and executive director of Casa Guatemala, where he organized day laborers on Chicago’s street corners.
Ariel Jacobson is a senior associate in UUSC’s Economic Justice Program. Together with grassroots partners in the United States and abroad, she defends workers’ rights and supports living wages. Prior to joining UUSC, Jacobson worked with organizations focusing on women’s rights, indigenous people’s rights, immigrants’ rights, grassroots neighborhood development, and youth leadership development. Read Ariel’s blog post about the Food for Thought program.
Evan Seitz coordinates service-learning trips and leads the development of UUCSJ’s service-learning programs. Prior to joining UUCSJ, Seitz worked as a community planner, helping neighborhoods rebuild after catastrophic natural disasters. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental design from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.