"Ironically, farm workers have an essential role in the production of most of the fruits and vegetables in the United States," said Sara A. Quandt, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences and the study's lead researcher. "Yet, many of them can't afford enough food and worry about whether their children have enough to eat."
The study involved 102 households in a five-county area of central North Carolina (Duplin, Harnett, Johnson, Sampson and Wake).
Face-to-face interviews were conducted at 22 sites including farm labor camps, trailer parks, individual homes, churches, laundromats and at Migrant Head Start programs using the Food Security Core-Module Questionnaire developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The questionnaire measures food security, which is access to enough food for a healthy lifestyle.
"This is the first study on food security among farm workers," said Quandt. "We found a high level of food insecurity among this group."
The researchers found that farm workers with children were especially at risk. "Households with children were four times more likely to have limited food access than the general United States population," said Quandt.
The study was conducted as part of a four-year project, Casa y Campo, and was funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to address the health issues affecting farm worker communities.
In North Carolina, the farm worker population is estimated at 200,000 workers and their dependents. They work on a variety of crops including tobacco, green peppers, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, apples and Christmas tre
Contact: Barbara Hahn
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center