Andrew Lewis: Public Good

2 min

Despite panic buying that strips grocery shelves, the flow of food keeps coming in difficult times. To Andrew Lewis, we can thank a special class of first responders – farm workers.

I recently spoke with an acquaintance who works on a local farm supporting their CSA. Each day she has had to decide if she will go to work and help pack the boxes of the vegetables for the waiting families. As she considered the family that ran the farm and the various workers, she decided at last to not go in and sequester herself for a period of time as a precaution.

It gives pause for thought. Just like our health care workers and grocery store employees, in this new environment, our farm workers are in fact first responders.

Between 47 and 70 percent of our farm workers in this country are undocumented workers. Seventy-three percent are immigrants. Upwards of 60 percent of those working in the meatpacking industry are migrant workers from Mexico.

That means that much of the fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds and frozen meat that we have emptied from our grocery store shelves in recent days, came from the labor of hardworking vulnerable people who came from elsewhere. And in this crisis, this vital population is as vulnerable as the rest of us.

Sponsored

That is why public health for the entire public is a public good.

If our undocumented farm workers and meat packers become sick, the linkages in our food system begin to break. And if they can't get help or are afraid to seek help because of their citizenship status, the problems for all of us become much, much worse.

Even though we all may be in isolation, let us perhaps consider the ways in which we can support and help these vital members of our community.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis lives in Sebastopol.