WASHINGTON, DC – The Equitable Food Initiative marked its five-year anniversary in 2020 and found ways to continue training during the pandemic, while its cross-functional teams provided critical input to safety processes on farms. 

"What 2020 taught us is that fresh produce growers recognize the value of continuous improvement and social responsibility measures – even during an unprecedented pandemic," said LeAnne Ruzzamenti, director of marketing communications for EFI. "We are excited to build on that recognition and commitment and continue to help growers adapt, innovate and make a difference in the lives of farmworkers." 

The initiative now has 45 farms certified farms in four countries, with 18 more in progress, including its first operation in Peru. Through the program, more than 3,500 farmworkers and managers have been trained in continuous improvement processes. Nearly $10 million has been paid to workers as bonuses and working conditions for 52,000 workers have improved. 

During the pandemic, EFI staff and its partners moved to remote training and audits to clarify what additional safety practices are required that help protect workforces from COVID-19. 

Juan Perez, an EFI-trained farmworker with Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce/GoodFarms, acknowledged the cultural change that EFI creates. 

"We didn't know much about a global pandemic, but thanks to the EFI program we are trained to adapt to any type of issue." Perez said. "The things we learned and practiced at work also allowed me to bring this knowledge home and share it with my family and my community to help keep more people safe."