Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Harvesting hunger : measuring food insecurity and hope in Oregon's Mexican agriculture and seafood workers

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  • Food Insecurity exists whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways is limited or uncertain (LSRO, 1990). Factors that increase a household's risk for food insecurity include being low income and not being able to access formal and informal supplemental food sources. Migrant agricultural workers, defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as persons who travel greater than 75 miles in search of agricultural work, have household incomes less than $10,000 and due to clandestine immigration status or constant relocations may have less access to food assistance programs. Therefore, it is likely that this group is at increased risk for food insecurity. The purpose of this study was to 1) gather demographic information, 2) determine sources of social and emotional support and quantify the amount hope for the future expressed by individuals, and 3) determine what percentage of Oregon's Mexican agricultural workers were food insecure. Subjects (n=45) were recruited from 3 places of employment representing the seafood processing (3), tree planting (12), and fruit packing industries (30). Some were migrant and seasonal while others had recently settled out of the migrant stream. Participants were either given or read a nine-page Spanish language survey. Thirty-two women and 13 men completed the surveys. The average respondent was 30 years old, married (45%) or single (36%) and had a household income of less than $15,000 with an average household size of 4.4 persons. Ninety-one percent of participants were born in Mexico. Frequently cited sources of internal support included God (75%), family (70%), myself (45%) and the Church (43%). Sixty-five percent reported having family living close by. Less than one quarter reported finding support in the community. Individual scores on the State Hope scale found that most respondents had a fairly hopeful outlook towards their ability to achieve change. As for food security status, 72.7% were classified as food insecure based on USDA food security module scoring standards. Hope Scale scores were not significantly correlated with food security levels. A lower household income, a larger household size, and fewer years of school were significantly associated with being food insecure. Although a small sample size and departures from traditional methodology make these findings applicable only to the sample populations, it may indicate that food insecurity is a major nutritional risk factor for Mexican agricultural and seafood workers. Validation of the Food Security Module in Spanish is necessary to better determine the prevalence of food insecurity in this population.
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