On September 20, Barry Lewis, a graduate student researcher at JSRI, co-presented with Juan Coronado and Rubén Martinez at the 27th Midwest Stream Forum for Agricultural Worker Health. The conference was organized by the National Center for Farmworker Health at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids. Their paper, titled “Food Insecurity and Farmworker Families and their Children,” focused on the plight of farmworkers, poor nutritional diets, and the dimensions of food insecurity among many farmworker families. Food insecurity refers to an economic and social condition of households in which members have limited or inconsistent access to adequate food. Food insecurity relates to inadequate diets in terms of quality, variety and desirability. The presentation complemented the conference theme, “Sowing Seeds of Health, Equity, and Hope.”
While 21.7% of Latino households experience food insecurity, only 11.9% of the general population faces this problem. Several studies have shown that close to two-thirds of migrant seasonal farmworker families experience food insecurity. This is both counterintuitive and shocking since farmworkers help produce and harvest the crops that feed the nation, yet these very foods often do not reach their own tables. The overall objective of the presentation was to bring awareness to this issue. Food insecurity was discussed within the context of other issues linked to the socio-economic conditions of farmworkers.
A brief overview of the history of Latino farmworkers in the U.S. set the stage for Lewis, Coronado, and Martinez to frame the current status of Latino farmworkers. Also addressed were key labor conditions and their lasting effects on Latino farmworkers and their children. The information presented resonated with the audience members; the presentation affirmed their own experiences working with and providing services to farmworkers. The session and the conference in general attracted diverse participants, and simultaneous Spanish translation was provided to non-English speakers. This was the first time the conference was held in Michigan, bringing attention to the thousands of migrant farmworkers who make the journey every season to work in the fields of this major agricultural producing state. A brief summary of the session, along with a session on legal aid for farmworkers, appeared in the Grand Rapids Legal News, which featured the services provided by Farmworker legal services.