Thursday, May 28, 2020

What the Farmworker Association is Doing to Support Farmworkers Through Covid-19

Distribution of Masks to Farmworkers
Thanks to an outpouring of concern for farmworkers' health, FWAF has received donations of both surgical-type and lovingly handmade masks. Taking personal precautions, FWAF staff have distributed masks and health and safety information, including videos created by FWAFat the workplaces and homes of farmworkers in five different areas of the state, each time being met with such gratitude on the part of the workers for these potentially life-protecting measures. We would like to express an incredible thank you to those who donated masks, and to those who gave their time and efforts in sewing and sending us handmade masks, including the Auntie Sewing Club women all the way from California, and to all the others too numerous to mention! You are helping to make a difference in the lives of farmworkers with this important show of support. Thank you!

Assisting Community Members with Food Stamps and Medicaid Applications
Helping community members with their Food Stamp and Medicaid applications is a high priority during this pandemic. As salaries are cut and jobs lost, concern for their health and food security increases exponentially. While, sadly, hardworking undocumented immigrants do not qualify for these programs, their citizen children often do. FWAF staff, using precautions, including wearing masks and social distancing, helps community members who may not have access to computers and may have limited literacy skills, complete online applications for SNAP and Medicaid benefits. We have continued to do this, through the shutdown, by appointment, knowing how critical this service is to the well-being of so many.
Food Donations to Community Families
The people whose work feeds the rest of the country, often do not have enough food to feed themselves and their families. Food donations are more important now than ever. Helping our community has included everything from individual assistance to needy families to larger food sharing events reaching many more people. 420 meals were distributed on each of three days to families in our community in Apopka, thanks to Chef and humanitarian, José Andrés, and Chefs of America Orlando! The Society of St. Andrew brought gleaned cucumbers, cabbage, corn and potatoes to our Apopka office which staff distributed in the community. Homestead partnered with ally organizations to reach hundreds of families for a major Saturday fresh produce giveaway on May 16th, Immokalee has had help from individual donors, area churches and the Amigos Center to provide produce and non-perishable items to their local families. Fellsmere and Pierson have received both cash and food donations from local supporters to fill a need in their community. Thanks to all the churches, individuals, ally organizations, and others who have donated food to meet this urgent need. To meet the expected long-term need, donations to our GoFundMe will help us to purchase food for families even as the instability of this time continues! Thanks to everyone for your generous support.
Community Garden Providing Fresh Produce to Farmworker Families
Through our Agroecology program and our community gardens, we continue to promote food sovereignty and the restoration of our ecosystems in rural communities. In the last two months, our Apopka area community garden distributed collard greens, kale, jalapeño peppers, everglade tomatoes, pegaon peas, papayas and herbs like oregano, rosemary and basil for 13 families. 10 pounds of sweet potatoes were just harvested, and we are taking care of our heat loving crops like ghost peppers, eggplants, okra, cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini and squash. Firebushes, beautyberries, elderberries, gaillardias and other native plants keep providing vital food and cover for native wildlife and enriching our soil. Thanks to all the community garden members and volunteers who make all this work possible. For more information about our produce and how to get involved in our program, email  communitygardenapopka@gmail.com   or support our community gardens by donating here. You can also stay up to date on all our community gardens by following our community garden Facebook page here. Our other community gardens are also continuing to work hard to provide produce and resources for farmworker families across Florida!
Rent and Utility Payments
A huge thank you to our supporters- and all those who have made donations, including some rapid response grants from caring funders, that help us assist community members in our five areas of the state with paying their rent and utility payments. We will continue to do this as long as there is a need, and until the money runs out. In one case, we helped a family pay for their internet service, so their children could complete their online schooling. If you'd like to help support farmworker families with their rent, utility bills, health care bills, and food, please donate to and share our GoFundMe!
Access to Health Care and Covid Tests
Through the University of Florida, we were able to do coronavirus testing for the Haitian, Hispanic and African-American community in the Apopka area. The method used was the swab test, and those who wanted to, were also able to have a blood test to look for antibodies to determine if they had had the virus at some point in the past. We were able to test over 60 people who received their results within 72 hours. A huge thank you to Joan Flocks for suggesting the Farmworker Association as a location for UF to do the testing, and thank you to all those who helped organize and conduct the event!
Special Cases and Outbreaks
The Farmworker Association is working to identify, act on, and respond to outbreaks of coronavirus among farmworkers as we learn about them. So far, there have not been many reports, but FWAF expects there may be severe underreporting for many reasons, including farmworkers' fears of job loss, the specific and unique circumstances of farmworkers on H2A visas, and due to lack of official documentation of occupation of those testing positive. Understanding the scope and breadth of the impact of the virus on farmworkers in Florida is a priority for FWAF, and we will be continuing to monitor and explore what is the reality happening on the ground.
Clothing Donations
While food and housing are the most immediate needs, there will be a need for clothing and personal hygiene items as the pandemic drags on. Donations of these items, including long-sleeve shirts to help protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure and sun-burn, are being accepted at each of our area offices.

        What You Can Do to Help Farmworkers
Above is a video made by Bread for the World's Florence French. In the video, Florence explains how you can take action to demand that Congress support essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic. These are issues that FWAF supports as well! Please listen to and share her video to get more information and spread the word!

Additionally, you can share and donate to our GoFundMe for coronavirus relief for farmworkers. Every cent to this campaign goes to supporting farmworker communities in Florida!

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