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We are immigrants, farmers, scholars, activists, unions, and  workers across Colorado working to identify, elevate and address the needs of the people who contribute their labor to all parts of the food system.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, many groups have mobilized in support of  agricultural landowners, farmers and other food producers. Federal relief directed toward the agriculture sector has prioritized the needs of business owners but the specific vulnerabilities and needs of food system workers (FSWs) -- both immigrant and non-immigrant -- have largely been ignored. Inattention to the plight of food system workers is both unsurprising and deeply problematic.

Food system workers have been undervalued, at best, and often exploited. The cruel irony of this disregard was thrown into sharp relief when, as part of pandemic response, workers throughout the food system were deemed “essential.”  The “Essential Worker” designation turns an inconvenient truth into an undeniable one: all people -- and all Coloradans -- rely upon FSWs to meet their basic needs in times of calm and crisis. Now that our collective dependence on FSWs has been laid bare, it is time to offer them dignity, respect, and support in tangible forms.  

Project Protect Food System Workers was organized to ensure that this group of always-essential workers is adequately protected from COVID and appropriately compensated for their labor and for the risks they assume in service to the common good. We attend to the new and urgent needs of Colorado’s FSWs in the COVID-context. We also aim to address long-standing forms of marginalization that undermine food security and should not be tolerated in a society that aspires to equality and justice for all. We do this work in four ways:

  • Collecting data about and stories of FSWs that illuminate their contributions to society, the ways in which their work is undervalued, and the needs that arise as a result;

  • Organizing social movements to raise awareness of FSW strengths, dignity, and capacity, and resilience -- as well as to highlight their needs for public protection and support and to motivate just and equitable structural change;

  • Proposing and advocating for policy action to make sure that FSWs receive protections commensurate with the risks they assume and the value they provide to Colorado’s security and economy, as well as to dismantle structures of oppression; and 

  • Raising funds to provide immediate relief, especially to immigrant FSWs, and to enable all of this important work.

These change modalities are integrated and our work is coordinated across all four domains, in keeping with our Guiding Principles .


Our Data Team has been compiling statistics and stories on the state of Food System Workers (FSW) nationally and in Colorado, with an emphasis on revealing the role of immigrants in keeping Americans fed.


Project Protect Food Systems is actively investigating the needs and sources of exposure for this group of workers around the state so that we may update our recommendations to better protect all vulnerable FSWs and the security of our food system.

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