The plight of Immokalee's farmworkers
Despite Florida supplying America’s wintertime tomatoes, Immokalee’s farm workers – the vast majority being migrants – struggle with poverty and food insecurity. According to 2020 census data, Immokalee had a poverty rate of 37% compared to the official US poverty rate of 11.6 %. With regard to economic disparity, besides being the most unequal metro area in Florida, Collier County (in which Immokalee is located) also ranks third in the nation.
Food insecurity is another challenge that the residents of Immokalee face. According to USDA data, major portions of Immokalee and its environs are classified as food deserts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that food deserts are areas lacking access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up a full and healthy diet. Many stress that a food desert might better be labeled as a place of food apartheid, being a human-created effect rather than a natural phenomenon (e.g. desert).
The economic and food access challenges of many Immokalee residents are rooted in their migrant worker status. As of 2020, of Immokalee's residents, at least 44% are foreign born (Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti of varying residence status).
With an average of 4.32 persons per household, only 37% live in owner-occupied housing. For the majority, high rent erodes food purchasing power.