Food Security in the Pajaro Valley

Photo: Tarmo Hannula / Register - Pajaronian

Tarmo Hannula

Background Material

This information was prepared as background material for a lecture at the Watsonville Public Library given by Kristal Caballero, Executive Director of the Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes on Monday, November 9, 2015.

Agricultural Abundance

How Can an Agriculturally Abundant Area Be Considered a Food Desert? Read and listen to the resources below to learn more about the connections between food justice, food security, and nutrition.

Food Security

Food security is a situation in which all people at all times have access to adequate quantities of safe and nutritious food to lead a healthy and active life.

Food Deserts

Food deserts "are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease." (USDA)

Watsonville Desert

Watsonville is defined as a food desert because it meets the low-income and low-access thresholds (at least 500 persons and/or at least 33% of the census tract's population live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.)

What Being a Food Desert Means

The 2010 White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity cited research that limited access to healthy, affordable food choices often leads to poor diets and high levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. People living in food deserts also face higher levels of food insecurity, increasing the number of low - and moderate-income families without access to enough food to sustain healthy, active lives.

Photo: Tarmo Hannula / Register - Pajaronian

Farm Workers


Kristal Caballero and Bruce Bratton interview on Universal Grapevine, KZSC, August 4, 2015. Kristal Caballero, Executive Director of the Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes, speaks with Bruce Bratton on the radio. 


They discuss our local area in terms of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition in the land of bounty, resources and organizations, and the need for change. The interview is approximately 30 minutes.

Library Resources

  1. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: migrant farmworkers in the United States by Seth M. Holmes, PhD, MD; with a foreword by Philippe Bourgois. An anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, Holmes shows how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care.
  2. The Farmworkers' Journey by Ann Aurelia López. "In a state renowned for its agricultural abundance, 6.4 million people live in households that experience hunger or food insecurity. This figure includes about 2.5 million low-income children for whom hunger results in poor health and poor academic performance (p. 145)."
  3. Ground Operations [Video recording]: Battlefields to Farmfields. This film champions veterans who are restoring their own lives and revitalizing their communities through sustainable agriculture. Their new mission is healthy food security for families across this country.
  4. Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon "Homegrown grains: the key to food security"
  5. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan. The author traces the rise of supermarkets and demonstrates how Walmart came to dominate not only food retail but distribution, too. She argues that, in certain neighborhoods, this can lead to higher, not lower, prices. "So far as I can tell, changing what's on our plates simply isn't feasible without changing far more. Wages, health care, work hours and kitchen literacy are just as critical to changing our diets as the agriculture we practice or the places at which we shop (p.231)."
need food or calfresh assistance? call our community hotline at 831-662-0991
necesita alimentos o asistencia con calfresh? llame a 831-662-0991

Some Local Resources

  1. Loaves & Fishes provides well-balanced bags of groceries and nutritious meals five days a week through our food pantry and hot lunch programs. In the fiscal year 2013-2014, 25,603 meals were served to our community.
  2. Center for Farmworker Families works on a variety of projects including the promotion of farmworker financial and nutritional well-being and independence.
  3. Jóvenes SANOS is a local youth advocacy and leadership program promoting access to affordable and healthy food options and committed to growing a thriving community based on equity and justice.
  4. Mesa Verde Gardens is a targeted response to rising food insecurity in Santa Cruz County. We work with low-income people-the majority of whom are farm workers and their families-to increase self-reliance through growing organic produce for their own tables. 170 member families; 6 community gardens...and counting.
  5. Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County "Through our network agencies, programs, and volunteers we distribute millions of pounds of food annually to anyone that needs access to nutritious food through CalFresh assistance, nutrition education and community distributions."
Food News

For More Information

  1. Civil Eats: Hunger in the Fields by Gail Wadsworth (Executive Director, California Institute for Rural Studies) and Lisa Kresge talks. From the conclusion: "The discussion of the farm worker population, inequality of food access in food producing regions, and rural poverty, must come to the forefront of the community food security movement. Collaborative efforts for change require a common understanding and focus on issues of poverty and social justice."
  2. California Institute for Rural Studies: Increasing Food Security among Agricultural Workers in California's Salinas Valley by Lisa Kresge and Chelsea Eastman. From the summary: This project's objective was to identify strategies to increase food security among agricultural workers in the Salinas Valley (Monterey County). The report outlines the survey results and findings from the key informants along with recommendations for the future, including next steps for implementation.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture - information about creating access to healthy, affordable food and the Food Desert Locator tool, an online tool allows users to retrieve data on a county-by-county basis pertaining to food access.
  4. KQED Center for Investigative Reporting: Hunger in the Valley of Plenty - Hunger in Raisin City (Part 1 of 3). This feature paints an intimate portrait of the barriers to accessing healthy and affordable food for the families that harvest California's produce.
  5. Capital Public Radio – The View from Here: Hidden Hunger. Hidden Hunger brings you first-person stories of people coping with food insecurity in one of the country’s richest agricultural regions.
  6. The Atlantic – Access to Good Food as Preventive Medicine by Erin N. Marcus “According to a new study, nearly one in three U.S. adults with a chronic disease has problems paying for food, medicine, or both.”
  7. United States Department of Agriculture:Household Food Security in the United States 2014 (PDF). An estimated 14.0 percent of American households (17.4 million households) were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2014.