Charlie Jackson, Executive Director of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, spoke with Marianne Martinez, Executive Director of Vecinos Farmworker Health Program, for an article in the print magazine, Edible Asheville.
Farmworkers face multiple barriers in accessing basic healthcare while working in one of the most physically-demanding and dangerous occupations in the US. Yet, the country’s food supply depends on having healthy workers who can plant, harvest, and process fresh fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products. That’s why organizations like Vecinos Farmworker Health Program are so important.
Vecinos is a regional non-profit organization that aims to improve the lives of farmworkers and their families by offering primary and preventative medical outreach, health education, and case management services at no cost. Headquartered in Cullowhee, in Jackson County, the organization annually serves 750-800 migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families in eight Western North Carolina counties.
Vecinos’ flagship service is a mobile medical clinic. Farmworkers often lack reliable transportation or have work schedules that make it hard for them to access healthcare. The mobile clinic helps overcome these barriers by bringing basic healthcare and screening to the workers at the end of the workday. They also offer a weekly traditional clinic for seasonal workers. Along with offering basic treatment, they can also screen and make medical and other service referrals.
Having enough food to eat is also key to good health. Food insecurity is extraordinarily high for the people who work to bring food to our tables. Nearly half of farmworker households in NC cannot afford enough food for their families. To address food insecurity, Vecinos works with MANNA to offer a food pantry for workers and their families.
Our food system is complex, and there are many more people involved in getting food from farm to table than most of us realize. While being absolutely essential to ensuring that we have a ready supply of food, farmworkers are too often forgotten and underappreciated. I value the work of Vecinos for offering services to some of the most vulnerable workers in the food chain. Helping to improve the health of farmworkers makes all our lives better.
Find out more about Vecinos and how you can be involved by visiting their website at https://vecinos.org/.