Food Tank: The Food Think Tank

Food System Workers’ Mental Health Is At A Tragic Crisis Point. We Need To Turn Things Around.

Food Tank: The Food Think Tank sent this email to their subscribers on May 16, 2024.

Hey Food Tank: The Food Think Tank—Dani here. I'm glad you're joining me for the Food Tank newsletter. Don't forget to remind friends to so they can join Food Tankers in this global conversation!

FOOD TANK w NEWSLETTER

Please take care: Today's newsletter focuses on topics of mental health in the food system, and mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, please know that support is available. In the United States, call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or go to findahelpline.com to connect with resources wherever you live.

Dear Food Tank: The Food Think Tank,


There’s no doubt that, all along the food chain, folks work very hard to get ingredients from the farm to our stomachs.


Harvesting, processing, transporting, cooking, and serving food can be hard on people’s bodies—and their mental health and well-being.


Among farmworkers, rates of depression alone could be as high as 45 percent, as calculated in a Nebraska study in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. Falling prices, lower yields due to climate disasters, debt, political instability in trade disputes and food relief, and more all put pressure on farmers. Nearly half of agricultural laborers (42 percent, per a California study) face low or very low food security, and many also are not given sufficient rest breaks or protection from the heat or cold.


Fishers and those working in aquaculture also face long hours working in isolation, exposed to harsh environmental conditions. Meat processors report symptoms of Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress, a form of PTSD that stems from having caused trauma to animals.


“I didn’t suffer physical injuries, but the place affected my mind,” an anonymous slaughterhouse worker told the BBC. “As I spent day after day in that large, windowless box, my chest felt increasingly heavy and a grey fog descended over me. … After a while, I started feeling suicidal.”


And the restaurant and food service industries are among the most unhealthy workplaces for psychological well-being, according to Mental Health America. A majority or near-majority of restaurant workers are facing emotional abuse or disrespect from both customers and managers and feeling “pushed to their breaking point.”


For some folks, the mental health challenges of working in the food system are life-or-death. Farmers, ranchers, and farm managers are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to die by suicide compared to the general population, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other analyses put that number at 3.5 times more likely.


These examples are heartbreaking. The people who power our food system deserve to have livelihoods that build them up, not tear them down. 


We want to shine a light on some of the amazing advocates who are working to change this reality and save lives.


Cultivemos, a program of the National Young Farmers Coalition, is creating a provider network in the Northeast U.S. to build behavioral health access and improve outcomes among agricultural workers.


Rural Resilience is creating online educational workshops to improve farmer mental healthcare. The Minnesota Rural Mental Health outreach program is doing great work meeting farmers where they’re at for counseling. Project Black and Blue is stepping up for food service workers in crisis, helping make medical and wellness treatment economically possible.


The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association runs a wellness program that connects organizations and opportunities with fishers and their families, and a limited-run podcast series helped spark more crucial conversations. And The National Center for Farmworker Health provides mental health resources for agricultural workers.


These organizations, and so many others, are walking the walk; stepping up to nourish those who work every day to nourish us. HERE is a list we published a few years ago with 22 more amazing groups supporting mental health at every step in the food chain.


This problem highlights huge cracks in our food and agriculture system. Poor mental health is entrenched in a production economy that fails to protect the most vulnerable. There’s a lot of social media buzz around wellness initiatives and self-care, which are important concepts, but they’re not enough on their own to address the complex stressors and psychological factors food system workers experience. And, often, they're a luxury that those working in food and agriculture simply can’t afford.


To truly transform the state of mental health in the food system—and improve the lives of those who work within it—we need substantive policy steps and tangible financial resources devoted to creating healthier working conditions, making counseling easier to afford and access, and helping people develop financial stability and food security.


And let’s not forget, either, about the additional threats of sexual harassment and discrimination faced by women and farmworkers of color. One study, in the Journal of Rural Mental Health, notes that the psychological stressors faced by employed Latina farmworkers were greater than those faced by their unemployed counterparts!


Thankfully, over the past couple years, we’ve been moving in the right direction, as policymakers acknowledge and act upon the fact that mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health in the food industry. Under the Biden-Harris administration, there's significant funding going toward rural prosperity and resources being devoted to U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that make mental health care conveniently accessible.


The bipartisan Fishing Industry Safety, Health, and Wellness Improvement (FISH Wellness) Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate last year, calls for expanding existing programs to encompass more aspects of worker well-being—a model that can be replicated in other sectors, too. The bipartisan Farmers First Act calls for expanding and strengthening behavioral health services in rural communities, and the Supporting Farm Workers’ Mental Health Act would explicitly include farmworkers as an eligible population to receive support from the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.


The mental health crisis among food and agriculture workers is a systemic problem. We can’t bring meaningful transformation to the food system without stepping up to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people who power it!


Onward,


Dani


Share this resource:

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#FoodTank



Text-only version of this email

Hey Food Tank: The Food Think Tank—Dani here. I'm glad you're joining me for the Food Tank newsletter. Don't forget to remind friends to so they can join Food Tankers in this global conversation! FOOD TANK w NEWSLETTER Please take care: Today's newsletter focuses on topics of mental health in the food system, and mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, please know that support is available. In the United States, call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or go to findahelpline.com to connect with resources wherever you live. Dear Food Tank: The Food Think Tank, There’s no doubt that, all along the food chain, folks work very hard to get ingredients from the farm to our stomachs. Harvesting, processing, transporting, cooking, and serving food can be hard on people’s bodies—and their mental health and well-being. Among farmworkers, rates of depression alone could be as high as 45 percent, as calculated in a Nebraska study in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. Falling prices, lower yields due to climate disasters, debt, political instability in trade disputes and food relief, and more all put pressure on farmers. Nearly half of agricultural laborers (42 percent, per a California study) face low or very low food security, and many also are not given sufficient rest breaks or protection from the heat or cold. Fishers and those working in aquaculture also face long hours working in isolation, exposed to harsh environmental conditions. Meat processors report symptoms of Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress, a form of PTSD that stems from having caused trauma to animals. “I didn’t suffer physical injuries, but the place affected my mind,” an anonymous slaughterhouse worker told the BBC. “As I spent day after day in that large, windowless box, my chest felt increasingly heavy and a grey fog descended over me. … After a while, I started feeling suicidal.” And the restaurant and food service industries are among the most unhealthy workplaces for psychological well-being, according to Mental Health America. A majority or near-majority of restaurant workers are facing emotional abuse or disrespect from both customers and managers and feeling “pushed to their breaking point.” For some folks, the mental health challenges of working in the food system are life-or-death. Farmers, ranchers, and farm managers are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to die by suicide compared to the general population, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other analyses put that number at 3.5 times more likely. These examples are heartbreaking. The people who power our food system deserve to have livelihoods that build them up, not tear them down.  We want to shine a light on some of the amazing advocates who are working to change this reality and save lives. Cultivemos, a program of the National Young Farmers Coalition, is creating a provider network in the Northeast U.S. to build behavioral health access and improve outcomes among agricultural workers. Rural Resilience is creating online educational workshops to improve farmer mental healthcare. The Minnesota Rural Mental Health outreach program is doing great work meeting farmers where they’re at for counseling. Project Black and Blue is stepping up for food service workers in crisis, helping make medical and wellness treatment economically possible. The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association runs a wellness program that connects organizations and opportunities with fishers and their families, and a limited-run podcast series helped spark more crucial conversations. And The National Center for Farmworker Health provides mental health resources for agricultural workers. These organizations, and so many others, are walking the walk; stepping up to nourish those who work every day to nourish us. HERE is a list we published a few years ago with 22 more amazing groups supporting mental health at every step in the food chain. This problem highlights huge cracks in our food and agriculture system. Poor mental health is entrenched in a production economy that fails to protect the most vulnerable. There’s a lot of social media buzz around wellness initiatives and self-care, which are important concepts, but they’re not enough on their own to address the complex stressors and psychological factors food system workers experience. And, often, they're a luxury that those working in food and agriculture simply can’t afford. To truly transform the state of mental health in the food system—and improve the lives of those who work within it—we need substantive policy steps and tangible financial resources devoted to creating healthier working conditions, making counseling easier to afford and access, and helping people develop financial stability and food security. And let’s not forget, either, about the additional threats of sexual harassment and discrimination faced by women and farmworkers of color. One study, in the Journal of Rural Mental Health, notes that the psychological stressors faced by employed Latina farmworkers were greater than those faced by their unemployed counterparts! Thankfully, over the past couple years, we’ve been moving in the right direction, as policymakers acknowledge and act upon the fact that mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health in the food industry. Under the Biden-Harris administration, there's significant funding going toward rural prosperity and resources being devoted to U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that make mental health care conveniently accessible. The bipartisan Fishing Industry Safety, Health, and Wellness Improvement (FISH Wellness) Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate last year, calls for expanding existing programs to encompass more aspects of worker well-being—a model that can be replicated in other sectors, too. The bipartisan Farmers First Act calls for expanding and strengthening behavioral health services in rural communities, and the Supporting Farm Workers’ Mental Health Act would explicitly include farmworkers as an eligible population to receive support from the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. The mental health crisis among food and agriculture workers is a systemic problem. We can’t bring meaningful transformation to the food system without stepping up to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people who power it! Onward, Dani Share this resource: Fb Ig Yt X New On The "Food Talk" Podcast Barbara Kowalcyk on Avian Flu’s Jump to Cattle and What it Means for Public Health On the podcast this week, I chatted with  Barbara Kowalcyk, an Associate Professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health. We discussed the recent spread of avian influenza to cattle, what it means for the safety of beef and dairy, and the holistic solutions that can help us monitor and reduce disease risk to protect animals and public health. Listen Here → Articles You Shouldn't Miss 22 Organizations Supporting Mental Health Along the Food Chain These organizations are among many around the world committed to helping food chain workers—from migrant workers and farm managers to front and back of house restaurant teams—connect with mental health services. Read More → The Green New Deal for Schools Empowers Students Among their demands are school buildings that are climate resilient, free and healthy lunch for all students, and a curriculum developed by educators, scientists, and students that adequately addresses the climate crisis. Read More → Feeding the Future: Newman’s Own Foundation Calls for Projects to Improve Food Justice for Children Organizations can submit projects which are at or beyond the pilot stage, serve youth under the age of 18, and fall into one of two focus areas: Indigenous food justice and nutrition education / school food. Read More → Cary Fowler and Geoffrey Hawtin Named 2024 World Food Prize Laureates The pair won the award for their work in creating the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, established in 2008 to protect global food security and biodiversity in the face of pandemics, natural disasters, and other catastrophes. Read More → #FoodTank Facebook Youtube Instagram X Sent to: [email protected] Food Tank: The Think Tank for Food, 906 Dumaine St., New Orleans, LA 70116, United States
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