Title page for ETD etd-08102001-133508

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Essa, Jumanah S.
Author's Email Address juessa@vt.edu
URN etd-08102001-133508
Title Nutrition, Health, and Food Security Practices, Concerns, and Perceived Barriers of Latino Farm/Industry Workers in Virginia
Degree Master of Science
Department Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Stadler, Kathleen M. Committee Chair
Board, Barbara A. Committee Member
Weigel, Mary Margaret Committee Member
  • Farm Workers
  • Nutrition
  • Health
  • Food Security
  • Industry Workers
  • Hispanic
  • Latino
Date of Defense 2001-08-08
Availability unrestricted
Nutrition, Health, and Food Security Practices, Concerns, and Perceived Barriers of Latino Farm/Industry Workers in Virginia

Jumanah S. Essa


Farm and industry workers are a growing population in the United States (U.S.) and are critical to the success of the agriculture industry. In 1993, the Migrant Legal Services estimated that there were 42,000 migrant and seasonal farm workers in the state of Virginia (Wilson, 1998). These workers are essential in the state's production of fruits, vegetable crops, and poultry. The 1995 National Agricultural Worker Survey (NAWS) indicated that 80% of farm workers in the U.S. are of Latino origin. Data from the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HHANES) reveals that Hispanics in the U.S. are at a greater risk for developing serious health problems, such as tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension, than the general population (HHANES, 1990). Latino farm and industry workers are reported to be at a high risk or developing nutrition-related health problems as a result of their low socioeconomic status and migratory lifestyles (Loria et al., 1995). Farm and industry workers also are at an increased risk of food insecurity due to low incomes, low literacy, poor health, migratory lifestyles, and lack of transportation (Shotland, 1989). The evidence from the literature suggest that long work hours, low wages, inconsistent work opportunities, and linguistic and cultural barriers may make it difficult for Latino farm/industry workers to meet their nutritional needs (Kowalski et al., 1999). About 30% to 40% of the Latino population fails to meet the minimum nutrient standards of the World Health Organization primarily due to poverty (Kittler and Suchar, 1998). A study was conducted to assess the nutrition, health, and food security problems, concerns, and perceived barriers of Latino farm/industry workers in Virginia because Virginia Cooperative Extension is concerned about the nutrition and health status of this important agricultural workforce. Triangulation techniques employing qualitative (focus group discussions and participatory activities) and quantitative (questionnaires) methodologies were utilized. Six focus group sessions were conducted with a total of 51 Latino farm/industry workers. Lack of money, time, transportation, and linguistic barriers were predominant themes that emerged from the focus group discussions related to health and nutrition concerns and barriers. Farm workers reported osteoporosis, anemia, urinary tract infections, and HIV/AIDS as top health concerns. Industry workers indicated gastritis, arthritis, and cancer as their top health concerns. Apples, bananas, oranges, and watermelon were the most commonly consumed fruits. Beans, tomatoes/onions, potatoes, and chili peppers were the most commonly consumed vegetables. Participants indicated that they preferred learning about health and nutrition from non-interactive sources, such as cassettes, radio, brochures, and television, due to lack of time and their migratory lifestyles. The Cornell/Radimer Food Security Questionnaire was administered to assess hunger and food insecurity. Approximately 98% of the 49 Latino farm and industry workers surveyed suffer from food insecurity. Females were more food insecure when compared to males. Data obtained from this study will be used to develop useful and culturally appropriate nutrition education strategies to improve dietary habits and overall health and nutrition status of Latino farm/industry workers and their families.

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