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Labor and Health: Working Toward a Healthier Food Chain

Panel Discussion | April 7 | 3-5 p.m. | The David Brower Center, Goldman Theater


2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

Edwin Dobb, Lecturer, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley; environmental journalist; Seth Holmes, Martin Sisters Assistant Professor, School of Public Health and Graduate Program in Medical Anthropology, UC Berkeley; Saru Jayaraman, Visiting Scholar, Berkeley Food Institute; Lecturer, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley; Chris Benner, Associate Professor, Human and Community Development, UC Davis

Berkeley Food Institute


In this panel, we will consider the multifaceted links between labor and health. We will examine this relationship in a number of ways, including impacts of poor labor conditions on the health of consumers and implications for food safety, as well as the impacts on workers across the food chain themselves. From migrant farmworkers to meat processing plants to restaurant workers, labor issues are integrally linked with health at every step of our food chain. Our food system is the largest industry employing Americans, and yet, provides the lowest paying jobs. These workers who grow, process, and serve our food often don’t have the means to get their own, or to stay healthy. A healthy food chain, thus, is not just one where safe food reaches consumers, but one in which all of the workers along the way are also treated fairly, with proper wages, mandatory sick days, and ample opportunity to lead healthy lives. What are the economic obstacles standing in the way of this goal? What are the regulatory frameworks and policy levers working to address these intertwined issues of labor and health in our food system and how can they be improved to better support our economy as well as public health?

A panel discussion moderated by Edwin Dobb, lecturer at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and esteemed environmental journalist

The panel will feature:

Seth Holmes, Martin Sisters Assistant Professor, School of Public Health and Graduate Program in Medical Anthropology, UC Berkeley. Dr. Holmes is a cultural and medical anthropologist and physician currently investigating social hierarchies, health, health care and the naturalization and normalization of difference and inequality in the context of transnational US-Mexico im/migration. Holmes recently published the book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.

Saru Jayaraman, Visiting Scholar, Berkeley Food Institute and Lecturer, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley. Dr. Jayaraman is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. She recently published the book, Behind the Kitchen Door examining restaurant workers and low-wage working conditions.

Chis Benner, Associate Professor, Human and Community Development, UC Davis. Dr. Benner’s research focuses on the relationships between technological change, regional development, and the structure of economic opportunity, focusing on regional labor markets and the transformation of work and employment patterns.


foodinstitute@berkeley.edu, 510-643-8821