Apr 7, 2020 - Health

America's food heroes

American grocery store workers and farmers
Photos: Charlie Riedel/AP (L); Brent Stirton/Getty Images

The people who grow, process and keep food stocked on shelves are doing heroic work in these conditions, often for bottom-barrel pay.

Why it matters: Millions of Americans don't have the luxury of working from home, and it's essential that food workers keep working so we can keep eating.

  • Undocumented immigrants are a big share of America's farm labor workforce, particularly for fruits and vegetables.
  • They often work and live in conditions that make social distancing difficult, and they rarely have good health care access or paid sick leave. They are also ineligible for the bailout protections that recently passed.
  • “You can’t pick strawberries over Zoom," Lucas Zucker, a workers' advocate, told the L.A. Times.

In the food processing world:

  • Grand Island, Nebraska: 10 workers have tested positive at a beef packing plant. (Grand Island Independent)
  • Columbus Junction, Iowa: Hog slaughterhouse closed after 24 workers tested positive. (Reuters)
  • Pennsylvania: Empire Kosher Poultry, the biggest kosher chicken supplier in America, temporarily closed after some workers tested positive. (WSJ)
  • Moultrie, Georgia: Sanderson Farms, a chicken company, reduced its staffing as a precautionary move. (WSJ)

And at grocery stores: At least four workers nationwide have died from the virus, NBC News reports.

  • Customers often fail to keep 6 feet of distance and often don't wear gloves and masks, one grocery store worker told the AP.
  • “Most of us are terrified,” he said.

The bottom line: “I know that we are doing important work that is feeding the rest of the country," one worker told BuzzFeed News.

  • "We are essential workers that this country needs."

Special report: Health care workers vs. the coronavirus

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