Author: Sarah Wright
Published: April 17, 2020
Joaquin Jimenez's bright blue truck is delivering hope in the form of food and personal protective gear to Coastside farms where some are struggling through the COVID-19 crisis.
On Thursday, Jimenez, farmworker liaison for Ayudando Latinos A Soñar, pulled up in front of a farmworker house at Giusti Farms, where 10 people live together. One of the residents, Julian Ruis, loaded up three boxes each of fruits and vegetables and three of nonperishable food, plus a couple of gallons of water and a $25 gift card to Mercado Mi Familia. Ruis said workers at the farm are taking the social distancing protocols seriously and are working in shifts to stay apart.
“Right now, work is steady because we are working little by little,” Ruis said in Spanish. “As for our health, we are all OK for now, thank God.”
As part of ALAS’s efforts to help Latino residents in need during a particularly difficult time, Jimenez has been driving donated food, water, masks and gift cards for groceries along the Coastside from Pescadero to Montara. Ever since the shelter-in-place order began mid-March, he’s been visiting each household weekly, checking in on the families and getting them the food they need to survive another week.
On Thursday, Jimenez and Miramar resident Beth Pielert stopped by the city’s weekly food distribution at the Ted Adcock Community Center and loaded up their trucks with food for nearly 60 people, driving up and down highways 1 and 92 and stopping in at farms and homes to drop off the food.
Recreation Coordinator Eddie Behle said the city of Half Moon Bay is working with Second Harvest to offer food pickup every Thursday afternoon instead of once per month, handing out food to more than 1,000 Coastsiders per week. The fresh and nonperishable food is available to anyone who needs it.
Behle said working with Jimenez and ALAS means they’re able to get food to families who can’t come into the weekly distribution site to get it themselves. On the days the city isn’t distributing food, Coastside Hope provides the boxes for Jimenez to deliver.
“He knows the need out there in the Latino community,” Behle said.
Many of the people Jimenez is delivering to have no work. Others’ hours have been reduced to part time. Some are going to work, where social distancing may not be possible. Many are undocumented and don’t qualify for most government financial assistance or even help from other nonprofits.
There may be some relief on the way from the state of California. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state’s $75 million Disaster Relief Fund will support undocumented Californians impacted by COVID-19 who are ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits and disaster relief due to their immigration status. Approximately 150,000 undocumented adult Californians will receive a one-time cash benefit of $500 with a cap of $1,000 per household to deal with the specific needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the governor’s office. Individuals can apply for support beginning next month.
When it arrives, that aid is expected to flow through agencies like ALAS, with experience serving undocumented communities.
Each of them said they were grateful for food to get through the week, for masks to stay safe at work and in town, and for water at their remote homes.
Leanna Young is one worker at Sea Horse Ranch. She said no tourists means there is no revenue coming in during the spring season, but there’s still work to be done around the ranch. Her hours have been reduced to part time. She’s relying on ALAS for food and has been able to get enough supplies around the ranch to make do for now.
“We’re doing what we can to keep the ranch afloat,” Young said.
Each day, Jimenez has been distributing masks in the morning and food in the afternoon. Thursday morning, he handed out 45 masks outside Safeway. Jimenez said if people call, he comes to deliver. But sometimes they need food in the evening after Coastside Hope closes at 4 p.m. That’s where the gift cards from Mercado Mi Familia come in, so families can purchase what they need to make it until their next delivery.
Many workers live in large households with elderly family members. Antonio Aguiar, who lives and works at Giusti Farms, said he still has work on the farm and is continuing to be paid. He said as long as he doesn’t go into town, he’s not worried about getting the virus.
“Everything feels normal here,” Aguiar said in Spanish. “But that’s only here at the ranch. Outside, things don’t look good.”
But it’s not just farmworkers in need. Half Moon Bay resident Juana Ruano and her husband both work at the Coastside Inn, but said it’s closed because of the pandemic. She and her husband live with their two sons, one of whom has asthma, her 72-year-old mom and their two pets. Ruano said everyone is healthy, but no one in the household has work right now. Their family doesn’t qualify for government aid, but she said she’s getting help from ALAS to pay for rent and bills.
“The program from ALAS and Coastside Hope, it’s good for the food,” Ruano said. “For now, it’s enough.”