COVID-19 has not only decimated communities of color, it has widened the racial divide that was already making it difficult for people of color to participate on an even playing field prior to the pandemic.

Pre-existing discriminatory practices are putting people of color at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.  It is no secret that people of color are predominantly affected by heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as poverty and lack of access to healthy food and medical care.  Now add to all that the Coronavirus, which makes all of the above even worse.

Recently, AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign held a Facebook Live conversation with Larisa Jacobson, co-director of Soul Fire Farm, and Jillian Hishaw, Esq. Founder of F.A.R.M.S., about combating racism in agriculture. During this conversation, these ladies were able to shed light on the fact that, while many of us are sheltering in place, certain individuals and business sectors are taking advantage of the current situation. COVID-19 certainly is exacerbating pre-existing health, financial, and racial issues in rural areas of color and on small farms of color.

When we emerge from this crisis, we cannot go back to the status quo. We need to be better; our future depends on it. If anything, we have learned that we do not exist alone and we need one another to survive and thrive. Everyone has a role to play and sometimes that role requires those of us with a voice, power, influence – even if it’s just a bit more than our neighbors’ – to advocate on their behalf.

AFOP Health & Safety Programs and its network of trainers are committed to the farmworker community.  Through education, we strive to provide the necessary tools for our nation’s farmworkers to be able to live and work in a safe manner. Now that we are all faced with the realization of a common threat to all of our lives, we hope that everyone begins to see the perils that farmworkers face not only daily but especially where they are now:  on the frontlines. Without our farmworkers putting their health at risk, leaving their families, and making sacrifices, we would not be able to eat. Thank you, farmworkers, for putting food on our tables.

Unfortunately, many of our farmworkers are unable to put food on their own tables with the wages they are earning.  Is that stimulus check allowing you to breathe a little easier?  Well, many of our farmworkers were left out of the stimulus package, even though they pay taxes.  And, although some are working to find ways around to help, at what point can we stop finding fixes and come up with an actual solution?

At AFOP, we have always highlighted the plight of farmworkers, because it often goes unseen.  But now we’ve all got a front row seat and plenty of time, not only to see, but to understand the toll that poverty and harsh working conditions take on farmworkers. So, what are you going to do?  A small token of gratitude, a show of appreciation:  how are you going to be the change you want to see in the world?