Every year in the US, more than 400,000 children join their parents to journey across the US looking for fields to work in and crops to harvest. They work as many as 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, at below minimum wage salaries. They earn no overtime and no sick days. They work legally from the age of 12 in all weather extremes and exposed to pesticides in what is the most dangerous occupation for minors in the United States of America. These are the children who pick as much as ¼ of the produce Americans eat. Their existence and the dire circumstances under which they live and work are one of the United States’ better kept secrets.
But with the help of Eva Longoria, Shine Global joined Director U. Roberto Romano to produce THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA, a film that tells the story of 3 of these children who feed America.
The youngest of them, Zulema, is only 12 years old, and she can remember working in the fields as far back as her memory reaches. Perla, who is 14, is crushed by the pressure of having to support her family when her father became ill, and longs to live in one place where she can have lasting friendships. And Victor (pictured above), 16, picks 1,500 pounds of tomatoes a day and has suffered skin damage from the pesticides with which he comes into contact.
Food Day is a movement advocating for more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food in the US, but there is no way to achieve this without addressing where our food comes from and, more importantly, who gets it to us. Almost 20 million people, or 1 in 5 private sector workers, work in food production, processing, distribution, retail, and service, and are making sure we get fed. But they cannot always afford to feed themselves and their families. Eva Longoria points out this tragic irony that "the children who help feed the most well fed nation in the world often go to bed hungry.”
This Food Day, we encourage you to think critically about the ethical sustainability of our food. Include the children and their families who harvest the food we eat in your conversations about food health and sustainability. To fix our food system, we need to start at the roots.
The film’s distributor, Cinema Libre Studio, is offering a special discount on public screenings of The Harvest/La Cosecha for Food Day events. Just use the code FOODDAY2012 at checkout by 10/10/2012 and receive a 15% discount.
THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA has aired on Epix TV, will air on the Discovery Network this winter, and is currently available on DVD. The educational version of the film includes a broad curriculum for teachers, available through distributor Cinema Libre Studio (www.cinemalibrestudio.com).
THE HARVEST is the second film produced by Shine Global, founded by Susan MacLaury and Albie Hecht in 2005 to give voice to children internationally who demonstrate great resiliency in the face of unspeakable hardships. Its first film, WAR DANCE, won two Emmys ® in 2010 and was nominated for an Academy Award ®.
Photo Credit: Shine Global
Becoming a filmmaker was a third career for Susan, who is a licensed social worker and also holds a Ph.D. in health education. In addition to her Shine responsibilities, she is Associate Professor of Health Education at Kean University in Union, NJ. She is also author of a book on advisory programs for middle and high school students. Her careers in both social work and education have been dedicated to helping young people discover who they are and realize their value. “Making documentaries about ordinary children facing extraordinary circumstances with strength and resiliency is not as big a step from counseling or teaching as one might think.”