Organization: HEAL Food Alliance
Location: Chicago, IL
In his words…
“In order to change the food system, we have to fix the supply chain and the infrastructure. I’m all about using the power of procurement, leveraging billions of dollars spent in institutional food service purchasing to build a better food system.”
What gives him hope…
The rise in support for the Good Food Purchasing Policies (GFPP). This is a rare example of many different sectors and many different people working together to fix five crucial sectors of the food movement: nutrition, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, local economies, and labor. Major cities have passed GFPP procurement policies: L.A., Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco – and now there are campaigns happening in a lot of other cities. We can do this, together!
Jose is a food labor activist now turning his attention to the business of corporate food infrastructure. A winner of the James Beard Leadership Award, he’s a mid-career activist who is now willing to crawl right into the belly of corporate beasts like food service behemoths, because that’s where infrastructure change must happen. Born in Guatemala to a social justice-focused family, today he is Campaign Director for HEAL Food Alliance. Prior to that, he co-founded and co-directed the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a national coalition of food-worker organizations that collectively represents more than 350,000 workers.
Pushing to deconstruct systemic racism to create justice for food system workers, Jose has fought large food businesses to protect workers’ rights, establishing bail funds for food processing plant workers detained by ICE and Border Control, and organized day-laborers on the streets of Chicago. Now, he wants to partner with some of the nation’s largest businesses.
Jose was undocumented for more than 20 years, after arriving in the United States at age 13. He believes that having had the experience of living here without papers helped him grow into a leader who can understand the immigrant experience in a way that many others only wish to emulate. His direct experience has also given him an array of grassroots organizing expertise that can truly benefit many worker-focused efforts, including the corporate and large food system businesses that rely on immigrant workers’ labor for economic stability. He believes the moment is now for the nation — and the food system — to transition into a new economic and political model, enabling the people most directly impacted by the policies that have destroyed communities and the environment to be front and center in leadership positions.