Meatless Monday 2

Mexican Skillet Rice

We are going to use this week’s Mexican-inspired recipe to draw attention to the role of farmworkers in the US food system, with particular attention to the horrific injustices they have faced during the coronavirus pandemic. There are over two million farmworkers in the United States, who perform the critical tasks of harvesting and shipping the vast majority of food people buy in grocery stores. One estimate is that 95% of farmworkers in the US are of Mexican descent, and 78% are Hispanic. Put another way “It is an open secret that the vast majority of people who harvest America’s food are undocumented immigrants, mainly from Mexico, many of them decades-long residents of the United States. Often the parents of American-born children, they have lived for years with the cloud of deportation hanging over their households.”

In addition to deportation, farmworkers in the US lack even the most basic worker protections despite grueling conditions. They do not earn living wages or overtime and are often not entitled to health insurance or sick leave, nor unemployment benefits. These conditions were untenable before the covid-19 pandemic, but now these “essential” workers find themselves forced to work, despite the deadly risks. Working conditions make them more susceptible to being exposed to covid, and without sick leave, they have to choose between coming to work while infected with covid (and infecting their coworkers), or not being able to provide for themselves and their families. Without health insurance, they often cannot seek or afford treatment for covid.

What does this have to do with climate change? A lot. First, increasing temperatures due to climate change make this work even more dangerous for migrant workers. Heat stress, dehydration, and death are all increasing among farmworkers. Furthermore, large-scale industrial farming that relies on exploiting this labor force also exploits the land and soil. These types of farms cannot generate the vast profits they do without exploiting labor and the environment, exacerbating climate by degrading soil and water. Finally, climate-change-induced droughts in Mexico and Central America have disrupted crop production and food supplies, and destroyed farmers’ livelihoods. Climate-induced migration is set to increase both internally and to places like the US.

This recipe was adapted from and