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AJAs 2016 Finalists

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Slug/Label
Date Aired or Published June 17, 2020 (Part 1); December 8, 2020 (Part 2)
Media outlet where first aired or published: The Independent
Name of Program:
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: St. John's, NL
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

The storyline behind the "Hands That Feed" series is based on the fundamental reality that the corporations that play the biggest role in upholding the traditional food bank model also play a huge role in creating the conditions necessary to perpetuate the need for such charity. When Covid hit, everything that I had written on the subject previously seemed to now be on full display - and yet the root issues were still not being addressed. Instead, the Premier told us to bang pots. I received multiple tips through social media from staff at a rural grocery franchise about awful treatment from their customers, management, and parent company - and I couldn't let it go. I interviewed several individuals from the franchise, but quickly inferred that if this was happening at one store, it was likely happening at others. I found staff working in other stores for other companies, and luckily had garnered enough trust from them that they shared confidential internal documents with me, as well as employee group conversations, which helped build Part 1 into an authoritative piece on how grocery staff truly feel about their working and wage conditions in this province, while the broader population stayed at home celebrating their essentialness. Part 2 came about in a similar manner. Although I knew that a series on essential food work during crisis wouldn't be complete without addressing charity, something I hadn't anticipated was the secondary crisis emerging from CERB clawbacks that was causing food bank demand to surge in the province. Along with other advocates and journalists, I was sharing information about what was happening online, and I received a tip from a food bank staff member about the realities at her workplace. In our interview, it became clear that the harrowing state of food charity in the province, and how it was playing out during the pandemic, needed to be the next part of this series. More importantly, I needed to show how the same corporations who are the biggest donors of the food charity industry participated in lobbying of our government to keep conditions as bad as they have been. The most important aspects of these stories developed and changed quickly over time. Incorporating a long view of the issues allowed me to draw connections that hopefully lead readers to question what it means to eat, so that we finally consider the hands that feed us.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

The Independent is an independent not-for-profit community news publication without significant financial resources. The story required primarily an outlay of time: Part 1 took around 50-60 hours from the time I began writing the draft, and corresponding with the workers, then the time I spent going through the CERB and Income Supports data, to actually publishing the second part which included all of the minimum wage data. It was March/April when I first started writing through December when Part 2 published.

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