Ensuring Farmworkers’ Health and Safety

This update comes from the Alliance for Fair Food, a Presbyterian Hunger Program grant partner. 

Oscar Otzoy, a former farmworker and staff member with CIW, hands out free masks to the community in Immokalee, FL on July 31, 2020.  Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell for The Wall Street Journal.

The coronavirus has put the newfound resilience of farmworkers on Fair Food Program farms to the test. Farmworkers across the United States are facing an unprecedented threat to their health and safety, a massive shortage of personal protective equipment, and have virtually no tools – indeed, often no real power, especially outside the Program – to advocate for themselves or their families. In the face of these tremendous health and safety hazards, and the utter failure on the part of the local, state, and federal government to offer protection, the Fair Food Program has allowed workers to organize a swift response – resulting in the implementation of best practices for prevention by participating farms – and to coordinate relief efforts across the Florida farmworker community.

Covid testing in Immokalee, FL. Photo: Alliance for Fair Food

Having an active base of allies from across the country has been instrumental in bolstering our campaign against Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis to secure more testing and healthcare protections for farmworkers, driving face mask donations, and holding the Florida Health Department accountable for performing effective contact tracing and securing alternative space for affected individuals and families to recover in quarantine or isolation given the overcrowded housing and working conditions in Immokalee that make social distancing impossible. The Alliance for Fair Food has played a critical role in ensuring farmworkers in Immokalee have the support they need — from coordinating testing logistics with international healthcare organizations like Partners In Health to answering hundreds of phone calls about distribution of funds for COVID+ community members.

Personal protective equipment distribution. Photo: Alliance for Fair Food

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed Immokalee’s tremendous vulnerability, and we must think beyond this moment about how to continue strengthening and expanding the gains won by the Fair Food Program to more and more farmworkers. And now that the world has been largely organizing online, PC(USA)’s support has given our staff the opportunity to explore using new digital tools and dedicate time to crafting a powerful narrative to ensure farmworkers health and safety is seen as essential as their labor. Our partnership with Presbyterian Hunger Program has allowed us to continue doing this critical work. We endlessly thank you.

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