Economic Development

The Workers Behind Our Groceries: A Book Talk with Benjamin Lorr (video)

June 26, 2024  • Food and Society Program & Economic Opportunities Program


People in the US spend more than 10% of their disposable income on food each year. About a trillion dollars of this spending goes toward purchasing food to eat at home, much of it spent at grocery stores and supermarkets. Yet, very few people understand or know about how food makes it to this last step of the food supply chain and ends up on the shelves of their local store. 

In this book talk, Benjamin Lorr, author of “The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket,” traces the history and evolution of the modern-day supermarket, exposes the grocery supply chain, and reveals the often exploited and underpaid labor that goes into making sure shelves are stocked. Speaking with Food & Society Director Corby Kummer, Lorr paints a vivid picture of how agricultural and meat processing workers, fisherman, truck drivers, and grocery store workers, among others, often endure poverty and sometimes worse as they work to feed our country. Maureen Conway, vice president at the Aspen Institute and executive director of the Economic Opportunities Program, provides opening remarks.

This conversation took place on June 21, 2024. It is the third and final event in our series, “The Hands that Feed Us: Job Quality Challenges in the US Food Supply Chain,” in which we explore the challenges food workers face and opportunities to create a sustainable food system where workers, businesses, and consumers can thrive together.

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