February 25, 2011
Last Updated:
March 4, 2021

How Workers Rights Impact the Local Food Movement

The topic of immigration is a hotbed of debate in this country. Whether you are for or against tighter immigration laws and penalties, immigrant workers and farmers make a huge contribution on the food culture in America.

A recent article by Robert Gottlieb on explores reshaping the national conversation by looking at how immigrants contribute to our economy and culture, particularly how they “provide for a healthier and more diverse food system.”

Gottlieb states, “Immigrants and food are joined in the fields and at the plate. When it comes to agriculture, immigrants are our farmworkers, but they are also many of our new food growers. Many of them draw on their rich relationship to the land that they brought from their countries of origin.” 

Immigrant farmers and workers have traditional cultural and economic ties to the land. As Gottlieb points out, traditional food cultures are also part of the continuing changes and diversity of our own food experience. Just consider how other cultures impact your diet and what’s on you plate. Is it diverse? 

American food really is a fusion of many different ethnicities and the diversity they bring to the food culture is what makes living in the ‘melting pot’ so rich.

“For those who are concerned about the food in our lives, immigration reform and immigrant rights should be part of the discussion. Immigrants should have the right to grow food and contribute to our food culture, increasing the capacity of a vibrant local food economy and a love of food that we can all celebrate.”

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What are your thoughts on immigrant contributions to the local food movement and economy? Do you support workers rights to grow food and contribute to our food culture?

What is the Food Justice movement?

Food advocates may work on several different areas, but share the common goal of challenging the injustices that exist throughout the dominant industrial and increasingly globalized food system. By striving to alleviate these injustices in the entire food system, the Food Justice movement is linked to and supports allied movements such as those related to the environment, land use, health, immigration, worker rights, economic and community development, cultural integrity, and social justice. For more on the Food Justice movements visit: 

ROBERT GOTTLIEB is professor of urban & environmental policy at Occidental College and co-author with Anupama Joshi of "Food Justice" ( 

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