225664 Displaced hands that feed us: Social inequalities and suffering among migrant farmworkers

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 9:15 AM - 9:30 AM

Rebecca K. Nupp, BA , Department of Anthropology & Department of Community and Family Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Melissa H. Johnson, BA , Department of Anthropology & Department of Community and Family Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
The U.S. economy depends upon the cheap labor of undocumented workers, but the plight of these people remains largely obscured by their low visibility in mainstream society. Every day, migrant workers toil in the fields, producing food for our tables, a fact that we take for granted. Meanwhile, the low wages they receive force them to live in poverty, struggling to feed their own families. This paper presents a critical examination of the social, political, economic, and cultural context of migrant farmworker health, focusing in particular upon food and nutrition as basic human needs that farmworkers struggle to attain. We highlight the suffering of migrant farmworkers as a social justice issue, emphasizing the ways in which U.S. citizens both depend upon and benefit from the exploitation of these individuals. This research explores issues around food insecurity and cultural perceptions of the relationships between food, health, and the body among a population of Latino farmworkers in Central Florida. Our findings indicate that food insecurity represents a significant problem for this population, limiting their ability to obtain sufficient, nutritious foods and having serious health implications. Although conceptions of food, health, and the body are culturally-constructed and variable, this study indicates that political and economic constraints are much more important determinants of farmworker health. In light of public health initiatives that focus on “cultural competency,” this research postulates that interventions focusing primarily on culture and education fail to address the structural barriers at the root of health disparities among vulnerable migrant populations.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Diversity and culture
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain how economic, political, and social barriers impact nutrition and health among migrant farmworkers. Describe the social, political, economic, and cultural context of food habits and nutritional knowledge among migrant farmworkers.

Keywords: Migrant Workers, Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present on this topic because I will have completed an M.P.H. at the time of presentation and I am experienced in working with migrant and seasonal farmworker populations.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.