Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Mia Dell, Chief Lobbyist at United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), who was one of the speakers at the 2015 Food Tank Summit in partnership with The George Washington University.
Food Tank (FT): What will your message be at the Food Tank Summit?
Mia Dell (MD): I want to stress the importance of coalition work. UFCW partnered with a wide range of advocates to change a proposed rule that would have sped up the processing line in poultry plants to the detriment of the workers and the consumers. UFCW worked with consumer advocates, food safety experts, and animal rights activists to change the rule.
FT: How are you contributing to building a better food system?
MD: My role is to be the voice of the workers at the table. UFCW members work in food slaughter, processing, and retail. They are largely invisible to consumers. It is my job to make sure their interests are represented in Congress and the administration.
FT: What are the biggest obstacles or challenges you face in achieving your organization’s goals?
MD: Ever since Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” consumers have been concerned about the quality of the food they eat. They are not concerned, however, with the safety and compensation of the people who work in the food processing food chain. The biggest obstacle I face is making these workers visible to consumers.
FT: Who is your food hero and why?
MD: Margo Wootan at the Center for Science in the Public Interest is my food hero and mentor. She is the reason we have nutrition labeling on menus and menu boards at fast food and casual dining restaurant chains. She took this idea that was controversial and quite niche, and through sheer force of will was able to move it from ivory tower ideal to national law. If we had ten more of her we could change the food environment for the better.
FT: In 140 characters or fewer, what is the most important thing we can all do to help change the food system?
MD: Stop fighting amongst ourselves for scraps of funding.