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Publication Date

December 1, 2015


Journal Article

The Impact of the California Drought on Food Security among Rural Families of Mexican Origin

By Rodriguez L, Horowitz M, Espinoza D, Aguilera A, De la Torre A, Kaiser L

The year 2015 marks the fourth year of a drought in California. With no signs of the drought improving, communities in California are left to prioritize their water usage. In the Central Valley, the limited water supply has forced farmers to prioritize on acreage and planting, decisions that trickle down and may impact farmworker families.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of a drought in California on family decision-making and coping strategies in the context of broader community changes affecting rural families of Mexican-origin.

Methods: This study recruited participants from the Niños Sanos, Familia Sana (NSFS, Healthy Children, Healthy Family) childhood obesity intervention study, conducted from 2011-2015. The primary occupation of two-thirds of the NSFS families was agricultural work. Based on the US Department of Agriculture 18-item food security assessment tool, a baseline household survey among 336 families in 2012 revealed that 45% of the households were food insecure. In 2015, a bilingual graduate student moderated four focus groups in a convenience sample of 26 NSFS families, who were recruited by promotoras (local lay workers). Males and females were assigned to different focus group discussions, each of which lasted 1 ½ hours. Two researchers reviewed transcriptions of the audio recordings and analyzed them for emerging themes.

Results/Conclusions: In this Mexican-origin rural population, households headed by less educated mothers, older fathers, and adults engaged in farm work were most vulnerable to food insecurity. The focus groups revealed community changes including out-migration of families, increased food prices, and changes in employment (fewer hours, less predictable, need to travel further to find work). These changes have led families to shift their family decision-making and economize to cope with the unpredictable nature of the agricultural workforce. Paying bills and rent takes priority over food, clothing, medicine and other expenses. All groups mentioned having to deny child requests and family outings. Women noted increased stress on the family and concern about keeping families together. Men expressed the desire to avoid disruption to their children’s lives but were actively considering moving elsewhere. As a community, they have remained united and working together to withstand the challenges the drought has introduced.

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Date Added
November 16, 2017

Rodriguez L, Horowitz M, Espinoza D, Aguilera A, De la Torre A, Kaiser L (2015) 'The Impact of the California Drought on Food Security among Rural Families of Mexican Origin'. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk: Vol. 6, Issue 2. Available online: http://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1271&context=childrenatrisk