Approximately 1,500 people rallied at the Capitol on Thursday asking legislators to end health disparities in California’s breadbasket, which has some of the highest child poverty rates and the worst air quality in the state.
Nearly 4 million people live in the San Joaquin Valley, and many still lack access to health care, clean water and food, according to the Sierra Health Foundation, an organizer of the rally.
“For us to succeed, we have got to work closely with elected officials, local as well as statewide, because we know while San Joaquin Valley is responsible for growing a huge percentage of food that’s consumed in this nation, it’s also home to some of our state’s poorest health outcomes,” said Chet Hewitt, president and CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation.
Sen. Dr. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, told the story of a San Joaquin Valley woman “who has to pay for water to come into her home that is contaminated. And she not only pays for that water, she has to pay for the water she drinks that comes to her house in the form of bottled water. This is third world circumstances that we have in ... the state of California.”
Other speakers drew attention to a growing population of uninsured and undocumented immigrants, and academic achievement gaps in Valley schools.
Representatives from the United Farm Workers Foundation also raised concerns about exposure to a widely used and toxic pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which studies suggest can affect pregnant women and cause developmental problems in their children.
“We’re tired of continuing to be forgotten in the Valley,” said Zachary Darrah, executive director of the Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries.