Nourishing the needy
Last updated 1/2/2023 at 6:56pm | View PDF
Campesinxs a Campesinos, in collaboration with the United Farm Workers union, sponsored a fresh fruit and vegetable food drive to benefit the farmworkers in Wasco and nearby communities.
The project's founder, Carmen Obeso, has a special connection with the farmworkers, as she is one, too.
"Like many others, I work picking strawberries. We hosted this event on the weekend because we all work during the week."
She said that during covid, the food drives were held on a weekday or early morning, making it difficult for the farmworker community to participate and take home much-needed food essentials.
"That was when a group of us got together and began asking for donations. Our goal was to support the farmworkers."
She said they first started dispensing to 100 families. The project has grown to provide for 500 to 600 families each month.
"We are distributing in four cities, including Wasco, Lamont, Taft and Oxnard," Obeso said.
Their volunteer base has also grown; they now have around 200 of them, with the majority being farmworkers.
"Today, we had 50 volunteers come and help. We are all volunteers from the heart. None of us receives a salary. Even though we work full-time during the week, we are still here on the weekends."
She said this is the off-season, and many farmworkers are unemployed.
"This is when they need the help most," Obeso said.
Obeso said they have organized this project for the last 2 1/2 years with much success.
Gabriel Leal is the head leader of the volunteers in Wasco.
"I also work in the fields picking grapes, vegetables, mandarins, blueberries. Almost all of the agricultural foods, I work."
He said he has always liked to help other farmworkers, and his efforts started during the pandemic. Ever since, he has continued to be a part of the project.
"I help Wasco because there are a lot of farmworkers that live here. We give away almost $100 of fresh fruits and vegetables at each event," Leal said.
He continued, "A lot of families just don't have the resources. Sometimes they have to choose between paying rent and bills or buying food."
Roman Pinal is a representative for the UFW. He said whenever there is an event to do something positive for farmworkers, he is happy to be there.
"Today, the necessity is apparent given the long lines of cars. People are talking about how low the wages are and how high inflation is," Pinal said.
Those who came to receive the food had similar stories about their struggles to keep afloat in these challenging economic times.
Wasco farmworker Alicia Gomez said she is on disability after an injury at work.
"I'm not working and only get $160 a week. It is a blessing what they are doing for us. The people need it. Life is tough, and I'm grateful.
"Food is so expensive. I pay $1500 in rent monthly and am behind by two months. I just don't have enough every month."
Another Wasco-based farmworker, Luis Santos Cruz, is also unemployed.
"I have kids, and this supplements my income. I don't get unemployment, so this saves me money I can use to pay my bills."
He continued, "It's just hard to live without the basic essentials like food."
With the many farmworkers in Wasco that find it difficult to survive on a meager wage, Leal hopes that the project will have a regular presence in town.
"As long as we can, we will continue to serve Wasco."