RIVERSIDE, Calif. — For the third time today, Luz Gallegos and Gerardo Sanchez are heading into a Palm Desert grocery store. 

“This is our last load, and then we’re done for the day,” said Gallegos.

What You Need To Know

  • The Housing for Harvest program is a collaboration between the state, Riverside County, and TODEC Legal Center

  • Since the program was launched on Sept 16, over 7,000 people have applied

  • Eligible farmworkers in Riverside County receive a one-time benefit of $2,000 in lost wages, up to $800 in groceries, daily wellness checks and housing

  • The program could utilize up to $1 million of CARES Act funding

By now they know every inch of the store. And their list never changes. The essentials. For the essential. 

“We are so used to our farmworkers to bring food to our table [sic] so now it’s humbling for us now to take it to them,” said Gallegos.

The food assistance is part of the Housing for Harvest program, a collaboration between the state, Riverside County and TODEC Legal Center, a local immigrant advocacy group. Sanchez is an outreach coordinator at TODEC, Gallegos is the executive director. 

“It’s exhausting but it doesn’t compare to the work that our farmworkers do, it doesn’t compare to nothing of the work that they do,” Gallegos said. 

Over 7,000 people have applied to the program, which provides eligible farmworkers with a one-time benefit of two weeks of groceries worth up to $800, $2,000 in financial assistance, and daily wellness checks.

“All of these farmworkers are Covid-19 positive or have been exposed to Covid in the last recent days. . . So the whole point is for them to stay in quarantine, isolated, so we can slow the spread,” said Gallegos.

Thousands of farmworkers in Riverside County have tested positive for Covid-19 so far, according to declarations county officials made to the Desert Sun Newspaper. With the harvest around the corner, Gallegos hopes this program, which is one of the first in the state and nation to provide farmworkers with money for lost wages, will be enough for farmworkers to feel like they can stay home.

“Ever since Covid hit our region a lot of the workers were feeling sick but they continued working because many of them, if they don’t have any type of immigration status, they don’t receive any benefits, so if they don’t work, they don’t eat,” said Gallegos.

Gallegos and Sanchez make a stop at Karla Valenzuela’s house. Valenzuela used to pick chiles in a nearby field, until she got Covid-19 

“I’m feeling pretty weak, honestly, my head hurts,” said Valenzuela in Spanish.

She is very thankful for the program which will allow her to focus on getting better. 

They make two more stops on this outing, all at the homes of farmworkers, all very thankful and all with Covid-19.

“This is long overdue need, we see with Covid . . . it has shed the light to a lot of inequalities that have existed for so many years,” said Gallegos.

Overdue because, although we have been feeling the impact of the pandemic since March, it’s only now that these essential workers are getting the comprehensive program they say they need.