Meet the people who bring us our fruits and vegetables.
“These workers are professionals. The work that they perform is skilled. To choose the right product, clean it the right way, and to do it in a fast, efficient way, it takes a lot of skill. It’s hard, physical labor, and it’s also really respectful and honorable work. They’ve always been essential. They are the invisible background of the food supply chain for the United States. They are feeding the world.”
- Armando Elenes, Secretary Treasurer, United Farm Workers
This is Mercedes, harvesting turnips in Delano, CA. When we spoke with her, she asked us not to bring up her family because she wouldn’t be able to talk about them without crying. She left them behind 20 years ago to work hard to provide them a better life, and she hasn’t seen them since. She told us, “We risk a lot coming to work everyday, now more than ever, because we are the only ones who are working here in the fields, to bring the food to the Americans, who are not working.”
“Working in the fields is very difficult because of the weather and the strength that is required. I don’t think you could lift these boxes of food. I don’t think people working in offices could either, but look at the Mexican women here. They sure can.”
- Ramiro, farm worker from Oaxaca, harvesting turnips in Delano, CA.
“We harvest radishes, beetroots and rutabaga. Each box weighs 20 lbs. Beetroot is particularly heavy. It is so heavy that not everyone manages. Some people last only 2-3 days. They ask for a job, they come, and by noon when you look around you realize they’re gone because it’s so difficult.
I am proud to be working the land, because I am Mexican, and I come from a family where I grew up working the land. I am proud to bring food to my children everyday, without them having to come here with me. In the future, they will be sitting in an office, with a computer, earning more than me. This is a sacrifice I have to do so that they can progress, without having to work so much under the sun.
My message to the people eating these turnips is to make the most out of them because it is not easy to harvest.”
- Socorro, farm worker in Delano, CA.
50 to 65% of the migrant and seasonal farm worker population are food insecure. According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) 2015-2016, the mean and median income of farm workers ranges from $17,500 to $19,999 for personal income, and from $20,000 to $24,999 for family income. They can not afford to stay at home during the pandemic. Many of them are now working reduced hours with children at home now that schools were closed.
As of April 22, 2020, about half of the nation’s farm workers were living and working in states that were among the top 15 in the nation in the number of known cases of COVID-19.
“These workers are doing incredible work. They’re just like any of us, like any American, trying to improve their lives, do better for their kids, and they’re working hard to try to get there. They have no safety net. They have no way of getting additional income. And they are petrified because they could get infected, they could infect their families, and if they’re not able to work, they don’t know how they’ll pay the rent or provide food for their families. So they are taking a risk, and obviously they need protections, they need the information, and they need the benefits to be able to take care of themselves and their families. We’re proud of this partnership with WCK and want to continue to expand it through California, Washington, Oregon wherever we can. ”
- Armando Elenes
It’s only right that the ones who make it possible for us to keep our fridges stocked should not struggle to put food on their own family’s tables.
After the first launch of World Central Kitchen's contactless drive-through distribution of 1000 meals cooked by local restaurants for our farm workers in Delano, CA, we discovered the true scope of the need and the great distances that many traveled to receive these meals at the end of long shifts. The line of cars was endless, and it was heartbreaking to have to turn cars away. It was clear we needed to scale up, and quickly jumped into action, recruiting more restaurants and setting up similar distributions across 3 more locations in the region.
We’re very excited to announce that in partnership with United Farm Workers and United Farm Workers Foundation, World Central Kitchen is now providing 7000 nourishing meals cooked with love every week from local restaurants to farm workers and their families across 4 locations in Central Vally, CA.