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San Jose Volunteers Organize Food Drive for Salinas Valley Farm Workers

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Some San Jose volunteers are making sure that one group of essential workers is not overlooked in the coronavirus crisis.

"Thousands of farm workers have not been hunkered down at home during the pandemic, they have been working in the fields and packing houses to put food on our tables," said Darlene Tenes, a San Jose event planner and Latin lifestyle entrepreneur who organized a drive to collect and deliver supplies to farm workers in the Salinas Valley.

"It's great to be helpful, because when I was a kid, someone helped my parents," said Ira Dearing while dropping off supplies at the San Jose Women's Club.

People donated food, toilet paper, hygene products as well as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

"Farm workers are some of the most important 'essential workers' on the line right now. They're not just helping the sick, they're helping everybody so it's so important for us to bring them face masks." Tenes said.

It started off as a small idea -- just in Tenes' neighborhood -- but it struck a chord with the larger community through social media, and it took off.

Women's Club members stepped up to take donations, others donated trucks that will haul the supplies to distribute to farmworkers.

One man dropped off a check for over 400 dollars he collected.

"Farm workers are the people who suffer so that we can have food. These are noble people who deserve all the help we can give them," said Karl Soltero.

As California's growing season kicks into high gear, many farm workers can't afford to stay at home.

Because many farm workers are undocumented, they don't qualify for federal stimulus checks and don't have regular health care or many worker protections.

"They're being loaded in trucks, they're living in migrant camps that are often overcrowded and they're very exposed to the coronavirus. The coronavirus is strong among the farm worker community right now and no one is doing anything about it," Tenes said.

On Saturday, the volunteers will deliver the supplies they collected and they'll also form a car caravan to visit farm workers in the fields, honking to show their appreciation in person.

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