Federal Program Helping Local Migrant Workers

Judi Lykowski, Wndu.com, August 11, 2006

Indiana—More than two million migrant farmers work in the United States. Close to 80-percent are from Mexico, with hopes of making enough money to support their families.

However, the truth is, many don’t make enough money to put food on the table, and that’s where a federal program here in South Bend is helping out.

The program is paid for by the U.S. government and takes place across the country around this time of year.

Here in Indiana, there are 20 sites that are distributing food to help migrant families.

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A little help

“(They are) jobs many times that you and I, and many Americans don’t want,” says Food Bank of Northern Indiana Dennis Brown. However, they are jobs that people, willing to fill, stand in long lines for.

Most of the men and women who were on hand Thursday at the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, who now call Michiana home, are either migrant workers or are family members of migrant workers.

“It keeps our produce cost down and I’m happy to have them. We would be in trouble without these folks,” said Brown.

Each summer, the United States government takes steps to give migrant workers, who qualify, non-perishable food items.

“We go to the Indiana Health Center and fill out the paper work and then from there, we come here. They tell us when we have to come and pick up the food,” explains Chenoa Santiago, who is a migrant farm worker’s wife.

Because there are so many migrant workers in need locally, it took the Food Bank of Northern Indiana three days to distribute the food.

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“It means a lot because these people can’t get this somewhere else. This is like there only source of food that they get,” said Volunteer Araceli Alvarez.

“It just feels good to see them all coming away with something,” says Brown. “I know this is a real boost to them too because they don’t get paid a lot.”

The Food Bank of Northern Indiana estimates close to 1000 local families were helped this year by the federal funded program.

In the three-day period, they distributed close to 75,000 pounds of food.

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