How Can We Keep the People Who Harvest Our Veggies Healthy Too? How Can We Keep the People Who Harvest Our Veggies Healthy Too?
Lifestyle

How Can We Keep the People Who Harvest Our Veggies Healthy Too?

by Bridget Huber

March 28, 2011

The program is tailored to reflect the realities of farmworkers' lives. “Go eat tofu. Go to the gym. These kinds of things can sound very foreign," says Veronica Vargas, coordinator of the Sembrando Salud program in Oxnard.

It's too early to say definitively whether or not Sembrando Salud will achieve its goals. For the California participants, UC Davis researchers will compare measures such as BMI, blood sugar, and cholesterol taken both before and after the program to judge its effectiveness. Those results will be ready this summer. Similarly, the Mexican Rural Development Foundation will evaluate the program in Jalisco once it is completed.

But Maricela Gutierrez, a promotora working in Oxnard, said she's seen anecdotal evidence that the program works. Most participants have lost weight, she said, and many continue getting together in less formal support groups even after the ten-week session is over.

Yissel Barajas, Reiter's director of philanthropy, echoed Gutierrez's observations and said though programs like these require companies to invest time and money, they could also pay long-term dividends. "If you create a healthier workforce and a loyal workforce, you have higher employee retention and you spend less money on recruitment. So it has a lot of benefits that aren't as easy to quantify," she said.

For farmworkers, a crucial benefit to staying healthy is holding on to their livelihoods, said Gutierrez, who picked berries for years. "Farm labor is really hard, and you need good health to be able to keep up with this sort of work," she said.

Images: (1) Photo (cc) by Flickr user National Farm Worker Ministry; (2) Sembrando Salud workshop, photo courtesy Reiter Affiliated Companies; (3) Sembrando Salud workshop, photo courtesy Reiter Affiliated Companies.

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How Can We Keep the People Who Harvest Our Veggies Healthy Too?