Food Bank for Farmworkers

Michael Reza

Hours are spent in a field, the sun intensely beaming down on the crops that Americans in grocery stores enjoy every day. All the while, the men and women pulling food from the earth, sometimes in triple-digit heat, often go home hungry.

The reality and irony of California’s farm workers is that a large part of them suffer from food insecurity. Meaning, they lack access and opportunity to sufficient food sources of any quality. According to Food Share, food insecurity causes families to oftentimes choose food over critical needs such as paying utilities, health care and education. 

That is exactly what Flor Martinez Zaragoza and the Celebration Nation aim to resolve for Latino and Indigenous communities. They organize events called the Food Bank for Farmworkers and have provided farmworkers with over 48,000 grocery boxes, among other services.      

Martinez is the founder, CEO and President of the Celebration Foundation, which was founded in 2020 during a heat wave and while California was ablaze with wildfires. She realized that farmworkers still had to work in unbearable heat and ash raining down on them without masks. 

Being the child of farmworkers herself, Zaragoza and her sister picked grapes near and around Santa Cruz, California, at the age of 14. She understands the plight of these essential workers and the elements against them, such as weather,and resources. 

“Farmworkers show up, and we still have food on our table thanks to them, and they are still underappreciated, overlooked, underserved, underpaid… you name it,” she said. 

Volunteers recognize this issue and have been outraged by how overlooked farmworkers are and come in droves to donate their time. The food drives take place in various parts of Northern California and operate as a drive-through service where volunteers hand out boxes and boxes of fresh produce.

Retired farmworker Maria Garcia spent 20 years working in the fields in Mexico and over 40 years in the Central California Oxnard fields, benefiting from The Celebration Nations efforts. Garcia began working in the fields with her family when she was just nine years of age to help earn extra income. Now, she travels from Ventura to Oxnard for the food drive because she feels welcomed by the community and a sense of pride. 

“I feel proud to have been able to work in the fields. I like to share what I get from the food drives. I am able to help and support people, too,” Garcia said.

Garcia was accompanied by her daughter Elida, explained why farmworkers have the stresses of getting produce for themselves.

“When you live out in areas that don’t have grocery stores close by, it’s difficult to get access to produce, so this is helpful to us, and it’s full circle because my mom used to be a farmworker too,” Elida Garcia said.

As they sat in their car waiting to drive up to receive their fruits and vegetables, they identified the different types of produce boxes, which Maria could determine easily from all her experience in the fields. 

The Celebration Nation is still a young nonprofit organization, but the impact that Martinez- it has on the Latin, Indigenous, and farmworker communities gives hope to those in need and is taking the steps to end food insecurity, among other issues they face. They currently hold food distributions at nine locations throughout Northern California and aim to bring this effort down to the Los Angeles area. They also are coming off of the success of their second annual “Farmchella” event, which is a celebration and appreciation for the farmworkers of Coachella Valley. 

Cover Photo: OXNARD, CALIF: Celebration Nation Volunteer Alberto Beneros gathers grocery boxes to give to farmworkers as they caravan and drive through to receive their food.

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