Working to eat: Vulnerability, food insecurity, and obesity among migrant and seasonal farmworker families

Am J Ind Med. 2010 Apr;53(4):443-62. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20836.


Background: Food insecurity and obesity have potential health consequences for migrant and seasonal farm workers (MSFW).

Methods: Thirty-six Latino MSFW working in eastern North Carolina whose children attended Migrant Head Start completed interviews, focus groups and home visits. Content analysis, nutrient analysis, and non-parametric statistical analysis produced results.

Results: MSFW (63.8%) families were food insecure; of those, 34.7% experienced hunger. 32% of pre-school children were food insecure. Food secure families spent more money on food. Obesity was prevalent in adults and children but the relationship to food insecurity remains unclear. Strategies to reduce risk of foods insecurity were employed by MSFW, but employer and community assistance is needed to reduce their risk.

Conclusions: Food insecurity is rooted in the cultural lifestyle of farmwork, poverty, and dependency. MSFW obesity and food insecurity require further study to determine the relationship with migration and working conditions. Networking and social support are important for MSFW families to improve food security. Policies and community/workplace interventions could reduce risk of food insecurity and improve the health of workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agriculture*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Food Supply*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Seasons*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult