Contributing author: Keaton Smith
Latinx individuals make up the majority of farm workers harvesting food in the United States, yet one in every six Latinx households faces hunger. “[Farm workers] harvest the food that we eat and sometimes they don’t have food on their table,” President of United Farm Workers (UFW), Teresa Romero, tells Food Tank.
But Latinx individuals, groups, and communities are working to eliminate these inequities and create positive change in the food system. Farmers like Eduardo Rivera are growing culturally appropriate foods, organizations like GrowHaus and El Centro Amistad are educating their communities about healthy eating, and others are supporting the next generation of Latinx farmers.
In recognition of National Latinx Heritage Month, Food Tank is celebrating the contributions of Latinx individuals across the food system. From advocates for farm worker justice to agricultural researchers to cookbook authors, here are 14 examples of Latinx individuals working to revolutionize the way we eat.
1. Bianca Acosta, Colorado, United States
Born in Mexico, Bianca Acosta is the Community Outreach Manager for GrowHaus, a nonprofit in a neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. GrowHaus serves Elyria-Swansea, the most polluted neighborhood in Colorado, by helping residents in their community gain access to healthy food. The organization is a hub for food production, distribution, education, and economic opportunity. In line with the mission of her organization, Acosta believes that food is a global common language which can help heal communities.
2. Rudy Arredondo, Washington D.C., United States
Rudy Arredondo is the president of the National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association, an organization which represents the interests of small Latinx farmers and ranchers across the country. Voicing the concerns of these farmers, Arredondo hopes to help farmers grow their businesses and reach more consumers. He focuses on minority agriculture and rural economic development.
3. Guadalupe Antonio Cruz, Michigan, United States
For over 20 years, Guadalupe Antonio Cruz has been supporting migrant and seasonal farm workers in Michigan. Arriving in Michigan as a migrant worker in 1999, Cruz now works as a Migrant/Seasonal specialist for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Cruz provides farm workers with the understanding and support needed throughout their lives. As an advocate for healthy communities, Cruz also runs a fitness studio to combat obesity in his community.
4. Jorge De Santiago, Colorado, United States
Since moving to Boulder, Colorado from Mexico, Jorge De Santiago has supported Latinx families in his area. At the national, state and local levels, De Santiago has worked on policy changes to benefit Latinx immigrants. De Santiago is the executive director of El Centro Amistad, a non-profit with programs which aim to promote education, health, and quality of life for the Latinx community of Boulder County.
5. Dolores Huerta, California, United States
Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers Association (UFW). One of the most influential labor activists of the 20th century, Huerta launched her activist career by leading voter registration drives and fighting for economic improvements for Latinx peoples in Stockton, California. Through her work for UFW, she organized workers, negotiated contracts, fought for unemployment and healthcare benefits for agricultural workers, and advocated for safer working conditions. Today, she is the President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and engages in campaigns across the country to support equality and defend civil rights.
6. Martin Lemos, New York, United States
Martin Lemos is the Co-Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition, an advocacy group which aims to help all young farmers succeed. Lemos’ work provides farmers with networking and mentorship opportunities. Lemos ensures that all farmers have a voice in the national conversation about agriculture. In response to COVID-19, Lemos is advocating to improve the COVID-19 stimulus package so that it better serves the needs of farmers of color.
7. Jose Oliva, Illinois, United States
Jose Oliva co-founded and co-directed the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), a national coalition of food-worker organizations aiming to improve wages and working conditions for all workers across the food chain. Hailing from Guatemala, Oliva ended up in the food industry, which eventually led him to help organize restaurant workers in Chicago. Oliva currently serves as the Campaigns Director at HEAL Food Alliance, a program which connects people across communities to build upon successful campaigns and polices that address health, environment, agriculture, and labor.
8. Amelie Ramirez, Texas, United States
As a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Amelie Ramirez researches the health disparities between Latinx individuals and their non-Latinx peers. Ramirez is also the director of Salud America, a Latinx-focused organization that creates culturally relevant, research-based stories and tools aimed at driving healthy changes to policies, systems and environments for Latinx children and families.
9. Jocelyn Ramirez, California, United States
Jocelyn Ramirez founded Todo Verde, a catering company in Los Angeles that puts a vegan spin on Mexican and South American dishes. In an effort to help her community create healthy food and during the pandemic, Todo Verde is offering online cooking classes. Ramirez is also the co-founder of Across Our Kitchen Tables, an organization focused on supporting women of color in the food industry, and she’s the author of the recently published cookbook La Vida Verde.
10. Eduardo Rivera, Minnesota, United States
Eduardo Rivera owns and operates Sin Fronteras Farm and Food, a Minneapolis-based farm growing organic vegetables. Sin Fronteras’ CSA provides Latinx families in the area with culturally appropriate vegetables like Tomatillos and Epazote. Through his farmer incubation program, Rivera also mentors the next generation of Latinx farmers. During the pandemic, Rivera is offering free produce to elders and single parents.
11. Edna Rodriguez, North Carolina, United States
Edna Rodriguez spearheads the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) as the Executive Director. RAFI-USA is a nonprofit advocacy group that works to protect farm workers and encourages environmentally sound farming practices. In order to support local farmers, Rodriguez also directs the Come to the Table program, which incentivizes residents to purchase locally sourced food. During the pandemic, RAFI-USA recently granted US$130,500 to support members of its Farmers of Color Network.
12. Teresa Romero, California, United States
Recently named a 2020 Great Immigrants Honoree by the Carnegie Corporation, Teresa Romero is the president of UFW. UFW is the largest farm worker labor union in the United States which protects agricultural workers. Romero helped UFW achieve key victories for farm workers in California: protecting farm workers from extreme heat and securing overtime pay.
13. Baldemar Velásquez, Ohio, United States
An internationally recognized leader in the farmworker and immigrant rights movement, Baldemar Velasquez is the founder and President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). Under Velasquez’s leadership, FLOC set international precedents in labor history. FLOC is the first union to negotiate multi-party collective bargaining agreements as well as the first to represent H2A international guest workers under a labor agreement.
14. Javier Zamora, California, United States
Javier Zamora founded and operates JSM Organics, an organic farm in Central California which grows vegetables, flowers, and berries. Zamora is a leading proponent for organic farming, and was recently awarded the Rising Star Award from the Organic Trade Association. Additionally, Zamora advocates for immigrant farmers and farm workers in California, and is committed to paying his workers a fair wage.