Hunger and Workers’ Rights

Date posted: Friday 25 February 2022

Many of us think about “hunger” only in terms of people using food shelves, people who are on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or perhaps children who benefit from school lunch programs. Or in a Midwest state like Minnesota, we may think about farmers and their contributions to preventing or ending hunger by the crops which they produce.


Rarely, do we think to relate hunger and workers’ rights, particularly those of rural farm workers. Rural Minnesotans are more attuned to this as there are still nonresident workers who come annually to help with harvests, stay a few weeks, and are gone until the following year. And except for recently when COVID reminded us of those who work in many parts of our state in processing plants, most of us don’t think about workers’ rights when we prepare our morning bacon or evening chicken dinner.


March is a good month for reminding us of the bigger picture. March 31 has been a federal commemorative holiday since 2014, named in honor of Cesar Chavez. Chavez (1927-1993) was an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded the National Farm workers Association. While most of the celebrations held in the ten states who honor this holiday focus on the Chicano or Mexican American farm workers and their efforts for good pay and safe working conditions, it is important not to forget that it was Filipino Americans who began the Delano grape strike and which launched Chavez to national fame.


Some of us may remember that grape strike; we were living in California during the 1970’s. My husband and I attended a rally in the East Bay San Francisco area where Chavez was a speaker. Our synodical Lutheran women’s organization (prior to the ELCA) was very emphatic that we would NOT serve grapes for any of our gatherings as a show of support for the rights of the farm workers.


March makes me think each year. As we pray for, think about, and care for those who live with hunger, does it make a difference what we eat each day? What might be in my refrigerator or pantry that I may not want to know who suffered so I might enjoy it? Could it have been a farm worker? A processing plant worker? A child laborer harvesting cacao in Africa?


Do some pondering, especially on March 31st. And maybe clean your cupboard.


-Vernita Kennen

Incarnation, Shoreview


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