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West Sacramento News-Ledger

Study Shows Yolo Ag Workers’ Food Inequity

Apr 24, 2024 11:12AM ● By Gary Zavoral
From left, Yolo Food Bank Director of Development and Communications Maria Segoviano, Nugget Market CEO Greg Hill, Sutter Health Director of Community Health Kelly Brenk and California Association of Food Banks CEO Stacia Hill Levenfeld are on a panel during April 5’s State of Food Insecurity in Yolo County event. Photo courtesy of Yolo Food Bank

YOLO COUNTY, CA (MPG) - A new Yolo County study unearthed an ironic trend: those who work hard to bring others their food are the ones who are most food-insecure.

That is one of the most alarming findings of the study made public April 5 during the inaugural State of Food Insecurity in Yolo County. The study details that nearly one-third of all Yolo County households have food insecurity, which is higher than the state average, and more than half of those food-insecure households – 53% – have an agricultural worker in the home.

To reach those households in the most need of fresh, healthy, culturally appropriate food, Sutter Health is providing a $200,000 investment for the Yolo Food Bank’s new “Cultivo” program, which launches this spring. Cultivo means “crop” or “I cultivate” in Spanish.

The Cultivo program will bring more equitable access to food directly to agricultural workers with monthly pop-up food distributions in their neighborhoods and their places of employment, such as fields, farms, packing plants and canneries, said Sutter Health Community Health Director Kelly Brenk.

The program is in response to the study’s findings, which also showed that 20% of those who reported living in a food-insecure household don’t access food from charitable services, such as Yolo Food Bank.

“We learned that 27% don’t think they qualify, nearly 21% don’t know where to go and almost 17% of households state the food rarely or never meets their traditional, cultural, religious and nationality needs,” said Yolo Food Bank director of programs Genevieve Pyeatt.

When announcing the investment at the State of Food Insecurity event, Sutter Health’s Brenk said these Cultivo pop-up distributions will remove those barriers to appropriate food by bringing it directly to those who are food-insecure.

“In the healthcare community, we have been very forward-thinking in mobile medicine,” Brenk said. “Now is the time for us to do the same with food access.”

Sutter Health’s own community health needs assessments have shown that access to fresh, healthy food plays a role in preventing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and congestive heart failure, and also contributes to overall well-being and mental health.

Brenk said that the county food-insecurity study went further by identifying “inequitable access” to fresh, healthy foods among food-service workers, particularly those in agriculture.

“It is incredibly eye-opening that the very people who are most food insecure are also the valuable members of our community who help our county grow and cultivate our crops,” Brenk said. “It is an inequity that we cannot and will not ignore, because it is the right thing to help change that inequity.”

The Institute of Social Research at California State University, Sacramento produced the study, which Sutter Health helped fund. 

“We are excited about working with Yolo County and Yolo Food Bank to close this gap and provide equitable access to fresh, healthy food for all in the county,” Brenk said.

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