Project: Huertas

Understanding the Food Security of Migrant Farmworkers in Vermont

Nutrition Education

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By: Hannah Ross

In my previous posts, I delved into the underlying causes of food insecurity among migrant farmworkers and the resulting nutrition-related health problems they encounter. I believe this research reveals the tremendous importance Huertas has on this marginalized population which is why I have decided to discuss the significance of including nutrition education or programming. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, too, states that “establishing a healthy lifestyle and preventing illness in the U.S. can be difficult without a good understanding of how to adapt to  American food…” (USCRI) While providing migrant farmworkers access to gardens certainly increases their food security and health overall, combining that with nutrition education would benefit them even further. Here are some components which would help make nutrition programming for migrant farmworkers successful:

  • Location: Nutrition education would be most beneficial if the classes were brought to the migrant farmworkers. Since many of them are undocumented and/or do not have access to transportation, there is a lot of fear and anxiety that exists around traveling and being in public.

  • Time: As with agricultural farmworkers, dairy workers, too, work long hours. Therefore, class times would have to be respectful of farmworkers’ workday schedule.
  • Culture: As one study examining trends in nutrition services at Migrant Health Centers found, it is for “nutrition outreach, education and treatment programs and materials to be effective, they must be linguistically and culturally acceptable and appropriate to the migrant and seasonal farmworkers being served”. Therefore, it would be critical to provide all information in Spanish and fitting to the different Latin American countries from which migrant farmworkers come (Runyan).
  • Materials: Migrant Health Centers which provided nutrition services also noted the importance of education materials. For instance, some centers use “food boxes containing nutrients frequently missing from the diets of local migrants. These boxes include instruction on how to prepare these foods and how to incorporate them into traditional diets.” Others sited positive feedback and results from “poster-size, picture-based materials for display on a refrigerator or on kitchen cabinet doors dealing with calorie-controlled, fat-controlled and sodium-controlled diets.” Lastly, many health centers stressed “that the most successful nutrition education materials were brief, non-technical and based on pictures rather than on the written word” (Runyan). Furthermore, due to the relatively short growing season and long, harsh winters in Vermont, it would also be beneficial to provide materials on how to preserve food, perhaps through canning, during this time. It is certainly great that participants have access to fresh produce during the summer, but that only represents a small portion of the entire year and it would be especially great if food security could be insured throughout the whole year.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the fact that many of the nutrition-related health problems migrant farmworkers experience in the United States were not commonly experienced at home. However, exposure to new, less nutritious food and a decreased level of mobility, has attributed to a decline in food security and overall health status among migrant farmworkers. Nonetheless, this indicates the significance Huertas has on migrant farmworkers in Vermont and even a potential greater impact the program could have with nutrition education.

Sources:

“Nutrition.” U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. <http://www.refugees.org/resources/for-refugees–immigrants/health/nutrition/refugee-nutrition-outreach.html&gt;.

Runyan, Donna H., and Patti C. Morgan. “Nutrition and Migrant Health: Trends in Nutrition Services at Migrant Health Centers.” Georgetown University Child Development Center (1987).

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