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Students fast for fair food practices

| Thursday, April 27, 2017

Lent may be over, but a group of five University students are embarking upon another fast, giving up food for one to two days beginning Wednesday afternoon.

The students are fasting as part of a movement to put pressure on Wendy’s to sign a fair food program that ensures participating fast food restaurants and grocery stores pay an extra penny per pound of tomatoes to contribute to fairer wages for farm workers, according to junior Tommy Clarke.

Junior Tommy Clarke leads a prayer service to begin the hunger strike.Michael Yu | The Observer
Junior Tommy Clarke leads a prayer service to begin the hunger strike.

“They have not signed on to this fair food program that a whole bunch of other incredibly big fast food chains have bought on to … that ensures better wages, human rights, a lot of awesome things,” he said.

In response to Wendy’s not signing on to this fair food program, 19 students at Ohio State fasted for seven days to protest their school’s contract with Wendy’s, which has expanded into a “rolling fast” campaign throughout the country, Clarke said.

“Since Wendy’s hasn’t signed on, these students got their administration to promise to cut the contract, but just recently they extended their contract with Wendy’s,” he said. “And so they decided that the best way to protest and make their voices heard was to fast. So they fasted for seven days, they went without food somehow — I don’t know how — and then a whole bunch of other college campuses around the country have been taking up [the cause].”

Clarke said the movement is drawing attention to poor labor standards for workers who grow and collect this food.

“There are still injustices that are happening out in the fields,” he said. “There are abuses, there’s sexual violence, there’s wage theft — there’s still a lot of problems out there, but we have a chance to make our voices heard and to get justice for a lot of these farm workers.”

Over spring break, Clarke traveled to Florida with 10 other students as part of a seminar sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns, where he had the opportunity to speak with these workers directly.

“We actually got to meet a lot of the farm workers that are actually going out,” he said. “ … We talked to these people and heard some of their stories, and just heard how tough this labor is, how tough this work is, but yet how much pride they have about their work as well as joy of life.”

The 19 students who fasted at Ohio State have offered advice to participating students from other universities, Clarke said.

“I’m trying to cut down on a lot of my food intake,” he said. “My meals are getting smaller so I can try to shrink my stomach a little bit so I won’t be as hungry, as well as, I’m just trying to eat less to kind of get the feeling of hunger, and so I’ll be a little bit more used to it when it comes. … Obviously safety is of the utmost importance to us, so if anybody is in need of food, absolutely we’re going to try to honor that and support those people.”

Clarke said the participants are encouraging community members to become involved by attending a documentary screening about fair labor standards in the Andrews Auditorium on Thursday evening, as well as fasting for a meal on Friday.

“If you give up your Friday lunch swipe, we encourage you to still use your lunch swipe if you have it, go in to the grab and go, grab some non-perishable items,” he said. “We’re going to try … to have tables outside on Friday for lunch, and we encourage people if they want to still use their Friday lunch swipe to donate some food that we’ll take to the Northern Indiana Food Bank.”

The group’s dedication to this cause is an inspiring demonstration of student power, Clarke said.

“The people who are actually fasting are just awesome people and willing to sacrifice their bodies for this cause,” he said. “And I think that says something about how much this means to us and how much it should mean to everyone else, because we’re not going to go silently. We are hungry for justice for farm workers and we’re willing to go hungry to make that point clear.”

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About Courtney Becker

Courtney is a senior from New York City majoring in film, television and theater with a minor in journalism, who recently wrapped up her year as Editor-in-Chief. She is a former resident of Pasquerilla West Hall and a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

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