Food Chains

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Food Chains Movie Poster Image
Thought-provoking docu stresses economics of Big Grocery.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 83 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Migrant workers are real people who deserve decent working conditions and a living wage. No one who works full time should live in poverty. The top four or five grocery retailers control the food supply chain from the field to the store shelves. Change is coming slowly, but we have to keep fighting to make things better for those who come after us.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hardworking families, celebrities, activists, and scholars try to improve living and working conditions for migrant workers.


Modern-day slavery rings are mentioned, and past beatings and keeping people chained up are mentioned along with ways in which it's largely been eradicated in Florida's major tomato-growing area. Sexual harassment is mentioned as a major problem for women workers as are efforts to eliminate it by providing safe avenues for reporting it.


Many grocery and fast-food chains are mentioned in explanation of the economics of agriculture and as either participating or not in the Fair Food program started by Florida farm workers.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Food Chains is an eye-opening documentary about the plight of migrant farm workers that focuses on the economics of our food-supply system. There's no objectionable content, but extremely poor living conditions are shown, sexual harassment is discussed, and modern-day slavery is described. The economics are made easy to understand for middle schoolers and up. It's a good starting point for a discussion about our own eating and buying habits: where we get our food and choices we can make about what and where we buy. There are a lot of subtitles as many workers shown and interviewed speak in Spanish.

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What's the story?

Migrant farm workers in Florida stage a six-day hunger strike outside the corporate offices of Publix, a large grocery chain, to ask for better wages and working conditions. The film uses this event as the framework for exploring those conditions and the everyday lives of the workers, as well as for explaining in detail how our food-supply system works and how it's come to be. It also explores the history of agricultural workers in the United States, going back to slavery and missionary times, and gives a history of the struggle for farm workers' rights.

Is it any good?

FOOD CHAINS is a thought-provoking, eye-opening documentary about the process of getting food from the field to the grocery store. It has a point of view and expresses it unabashedly, which is that no one who toils full-time in the field should live in poverty and that the big grocery chains, given the power they exercise over the whole supply chain and their tremendous annual profits, should take active and relatively painless steps to improve the lives of those working in the fields. The film doesn't try to present balanced viewpoints, instead focusing on raising awareness of the situation, in particular of the indignity of living in poverty.

The economics are thoughtfully explained and easy for middle schoolers and up to understand without being dumbed down. But it's more likely to interest and affect high schoolers as they broaden their awareness and contemplate the choices they'll make as adults. It'll definitely leave you thinking about where you shop for groceries and what you'll buy when you're there.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how food gets to our table. Had you ever given it any thought? What surprised you the most about the process of getting tomatoes from the field to the grocery-store shelf?

  • Have you seen any other movies about the food business in America? How does this one compare? Does it present the issues fairly or impartially? Should it?

  • Where does your family buy most of its food? Why there? Do you have a lot of choices? If you do, did this movie change your mind about some of them? If you don't have much choice, why is that?

Movie details

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