In relation to our discussions of migrant labor supporting many agricultural industries, the NY Times published an article related to the food security, health and overall quality of life for migrant laborers that work on California farms.
The Salinas Valley provides most of the vegetables that Americans consume in the United States. From lettuce to broccoli to brussel sprouts, the produce that you consume most likely came from this region of California. It is a very fertile region, located deep within the valley. The NY Times states that this region has more than doubled its production output and provides the United States with more than half of the lettuce that we see in our grocery stores. However, most of these healthy foods are not consumed by the laborers who harvest them.
According to the article, 91% of California's farm labor come from workers who are 'foreign born.' However, the quality of life for the workers and their families are quite poor. In the Salinas City Elementary School, 33% of the students that attend are homeless. Diabetes rates are rising, and 85% of the laborers are overweight to obese. The sad part is, the food that these workers harvest are not affordable to the workers who harvest them, according to a professor at the University of California, Davis. In addition to the poor diets, treatment for various diseases related to the diets is low as well. Many of the workers in this region are not legal citizens, and cannot afford health insurance. With the appeal of affordable, unhealthy food and no health insurance, these two factors contribute significantly to the poor health of the migrant laborers. California is also known for its high housing costs, so some workers find homes in abandoned buildings, tents, or various other shelters. Couple that with low wages, and healthy foods are not an option for many of the workers. Not only do the farm workers get affected, but the children of the farm workers as well. 72% of children under the age of 10 in Salinas' county drank soda at least once per day. 83% of teenagers in the same county drank soda once a day. Adolescents in this county drank 4.5 times more sugary drinks than water.
When thinking about a revolution in our farm industry, how can we better support the workers who cannot afford healthy foods? Corporations and industrial agriculture are making it very difficult for CSAs and farmers markets to operate in this region so the change to locavore dining is quite difficult. The balance between supporting farms and providing workers with healthy foods is quite conflicting.