WhyHunger has been in touch with our partners across the country and the globe to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their communities and what they’re doing to help. What we’ve heard has been both heartbreaking and inspiring—further demonstrating the critical role of grassroots organizations as first responders in their communities. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the stories of these partners in our Root Report series.
As the COVID-19 crisis rages on, health and government officials around the world continue to urge people to keep their hands clean and stay inside. While these practices are critical to preventing the spread, it’s the hands that are outside and working in the dirt that are getting us through this pandemic. Across the United States, these are the hands of the essential workers who are planting, picking, and packing our food. They cannot shelter at home to remain safe from COVID-19; instead, they must go to work to ensure that we are all fed.
Protecting farmworkers is essential to the nation’s food supply chain. And yet, these workers labor on without adequate pay or protection to honor and acknowledge the sacrifice and risk that they face every day.
The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) knows the dangers of working in the agricultural industry even before COVID-19—long hours, poor working conditions, low wages, pesticide exposure, abuse and harassment, and more. For the past 36 years, FWAF has worked to build power among farmworker and rural low-income communities to create meaningful change in the social, political, workplace, economic, health and environmental justice issues affecting their lives. The COVID-19 crisis makes this work even more critical, as farmworkers have minimal access to sick leave and healthcare or to adequate language services and relevant information about protecting themselves.
Awareness is key to preventing the spread of the virus among farmworkers, who may live and work in close quarters. An organization led by farmworkers, FWAF knows the needs of their community best. Since the start of this pandemic, they have increased their efforts to address the unique needs of farmworkers across the state, including:
- Delivering nutritious and non-perishable food to farmworkers and their families directly to their doorstep
- Providing families with direct assistance to pay their rent, utilities, and other crucial household needs
- Distributing accurate, timely, and culturally appropriate information about COVID-19 transmission and prevention
- Assisting farmworkers and their families with applications and legal support for Medicaid, unemployment, food stamps and other government programs
- Leading national calls to ICE to desist operations and immediately release people in prisons and detainment centers
While the United States government refuses to protect farmworkers and continues to lower wages to protect the profits of commercial farms, the Farmworker Association of Florida’s work has become more important than ever before.
To learn more, visit floridafarmworkers.org.