Organizations donate face masks, hand sanitizer for Valley farmworkers

Thousands of Valley farm laborers are still hard at work, ensuring families across the country have food on their tables. But some worry they are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 due to living and working in close quarters.

State Senator Anna Caballero says, "There's fear about whether they can catch this virus being in those overcrowded situations both housing and commuting to work, and then also some of the work environments involve you working shoulder to shoulder with each other on some of the machines."

That's why Caballero has partnered with the California Farmworker Foundation to provide protective equipment to the workers, thanks to donations from the Resource Recovery Coalition and Green Waste Recovery.

On Wednesday morning, they made a delivery of face masks and hand sanitizer to The Specialty Crop Company in Madera County, which is the largest grower of fresh and dried figs in the world.

Safety and Food Safety Manager Shaun Ramirez says, "We have about 100 year-round employees, and during harvest time, we get up to about 500 to 600 employees out on the ranch for the fresh fig harvest."

Ramirez says safety has been a concern since the outbreak began, but the company has not had any employees test positive. He's thankful for the donation of these supplies and says education has also been a critical component in keeping workers healthy.

"We really have been at the forefront of going over coronavirus and symptoms prevention, social distancing handwashing because not only do we have a responsibility to keep our employees safe but at the same time to provide a safe food product for the rest of the country," says Ramirez.

Many advocates have also raised concerns about undocumented farm workers during this time. Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced 125 million dollars in disaster relief assistance for those families, which will be funded by the state and philanthropic partners."
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