By Ron Levesque
Feeding Terrified Farmworkers
Following up on the article about the Farmworker Families program of Ann Lopez in our Spring 2019 newsletter, I want to summarize a San Jose Mercury News article from August 24, 2019 on one aspect of her program. Entitled “In Santa Cruz County, a clandestine food bank draws hundreds of farmworkers” , the article describes one day in a hidden food bank for farmworkers, a reflection of increased immigration enforcement and the fear of raids and deportation, which is driving farmworkers into the shadows. Ann Lopez, executive director of the Center for Farmworker Families, www.farmworkerfamilies.org , is partnering with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz to deliver groceries once a month to farmworkers in an out-of-the-way location where clients can feel safe. Currently, these families fear to shop at grocery stores or even venture out in public. In fact, some are so afraid to go to the food bank site that they send a neighbor to collect the food for them. And the need is great for these low-salary workers, who struggle to afford the very food they harvest for others. Turnout is very high, some 100 to 200 folks each month. Food banks are now confronting not only the hunger in the community, but the great fear that is consuming this community. Ann Lopez expressed it best when she said,” This is the kind of life they (farmworker families) live: impoverished, abused, living in constant fear. This is no way to treat essential workers that feed the country.”
New Law Promotes Construction of Housing for Farmworkers
The advocacy by Ann Lopez on behalf of farmworkers yielded another success recently when Governor Newsom signed into law a bill that addresses the housing crisis in rural areas, where farmworkers have been affected greatly. The lead sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, points out that farmworkers have been living in “third-world country conditions”, in run-down mobile homes, RVs, and crowded apartments with more than two persons sleeping in each room. Ann Lopez testified before the State Senate in support of this new law. The measure facilitates construction of worker housing units on land zoned for farming. A nonprofit agency will manage the projects. Farmers who opt to participate in the voluntary program are eligible for state funding.