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It is truly ironic that the people who pick the food we eat are often hungry themselves. Extremely low wages, mobility, and other factors in farmworkers’ daily lives often mean there is little money available for food.

Rural isolation, limited transportation options, and bad weather impede farmworkers’ ability to put nutritious food on their own tables. While there is no national data on farmworkers’ food insecurity and hunger, regional studies in Colorado, North Carolina, and Texas have estimated food insecurity rates of almost 50 per cent.

While farmworkers are underrepresented in participation in most federal assistance programs (as compared to their eligibility), farmworkers participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, at a higher rate than other federal programs. Farmworker women and infants also often participate in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

For an excellent portrait of the poverty and nutritional challenges migrant farmworkers and their families face, see this piece in The New York Times.  

Migrant Children in School

Migrant children and youth who are identified by a migrant education program or federal education program director are entitled to receive free school lunches, breakfasts, and snacks with no application form. For information on migrant children and the free or reduced price school meal programs click here.


School Breakfast for Migrant Children

Unfortunately, far fewer children receive breakfast than are eligible for this important meal. Even in areas where students are receiving lunch, fewer children are participating in breakfast programs than should be benefiting from a free breakfast. In some schools, only lunch is provided and breakfast is not.

School Breakfasts for Migrant Children: Increasing Participation in the School Breakfast Program for the Children of Migrant Farmworkers outlines ways to utilize the School Breakfast Program. Migrant Education Programs can advocate for school breakfasts and, equally important, advocate for school breakfast implementation that works for migrant children. Click here for a PDF copy.

Other Federal Nutrition Programs Available to Migrant Children

There are a variety of other food and nutrition programs which have been designed to reduce access barriers for migrant children and youth. These often-underutilized programs include:

  • The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) which provides meals during summer months

  • The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) which provides after-school snacks as well as meals in childcare centers

For MLAP’s guide, Increasing Access to Food and Nutrition for Migrant Children: Select Federal Food Programs for the Children of Migrant Farmworkers, on how federal nutrition programs can be of use to Migrant Education Programs and others, click here.

Access to School Meals by Those Not Proficient in English

A very important advocacy priority for MLAP is ensuring access to school meals and other food and nutrition programs by those not proficient in English.

Federal law requires that all schools provide school meals application instructions and the application itself in the language of the parent for all parents not proficient in English. Alternatively, the instructions and applications must be fully explained to those not proficient in English and assistance be provided.

To assist in this process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has translated both the program instructions and the application into 49 languages. Click here to go to the USDA website listing these translations.

As part of its advocacy in this area, MLAP has provided leadership on these issues through the Consortium on LEP Issues and has participated in advocacy before the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding these issues.

In the summer of 2012, MLAP Emerson Hunger Fellow Kate Callahan co-wrote a document regarding Promising Practices by school districts which provided access to school meals by those not fluent in English. This publication, a joint venture with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Food Research and Action Center, is based on a survey of local school districts conducted in the spring of 2012. It can be found here.

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