Living Where Fast Food Is Easy But Fresh Food Is Scarce

Living Where Fast Food Is Easy But Fresh Food Is Scarce

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Editor's Note: Getting fresh produce is a challenge in many of California's farmworker communities, and so is changing young people’s eating habits. Jane Carretero, the daughter of farmworkers in Fresno, shared a bit of her own recent experience in a radio and text diary she produced as a member of 
The Know Youth Media, a project of New America Media, in collaboration with KQED and The California Report’s Hunger in the Valley of Plenty series. 

Aug. 16, 2013

My name’s Jane Carretero. I turned 15 years old on August 12th.

Everything’s OK, or as OK as it can be, as a 15-year-old that’s pregnant.

Since I got pregnant, my doctor and mom have really been trying to get me to eat vegetables, but I can usually get away with not eating any vegetables or fruit. Whenever I pass by McDonald’s I usually end up getting something, which I eat instead of the food my mom makes. She gets really mad because she tells us it’s not healthy. My doctor tells me the same thing. It’s not healthy for me or the baby.

I do care about being healthy, but it’s just to a point where if I really want a certain food I’m not going to think about it being healthy or not. I hardly ever eat any real food. I see that I should be healthy, but if I really want something I’m going to eat it.

The things in my fridge right now? We have milk, tortillas, eggs, and the tapatio sauce that you’d find in every Mexican household fridge. We also have a corner in our refrigerator filled with packets from fast food restaurants: ketchup and hot sauce. It’s all from McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Panda Express and Carl’s Jr.

What's for school lunch in the Central Valley?

Sept. 5, 2013

My mom is a traditional Mexican mom. She’s the kind of mom who likes listening to old-school Mexican music while she cooks. She’s hardly ever home, but when she is she likes listening to old-school music and cooking.

She makes posole, menudo and tamales, all traditional Mexican dishes. I love it when my mom makes birria -- the whole house smells like it and makes it feel like home.

But I usually end up eating hot Cheetos or slushies instead of the food my mom makes.

She is the only parent I really have left. She does everything she can to support us and feed me and my two older sisters. She usually works in the grape fields or picking string beans. She works even though it’s 100 degrees outside and she’s in the hot sun.

My dad passed away when I was in third grade. He had leukemia and lymphoma. He was the greatest dad ever. Even while he was doing chemotherapy, he was still working in the fields, and trying hard to support me and my family.

At one point, my dad was really sick and weak, and he couldn’t go to work. That’s when we had to go to the food bank. We didn’t have any money or food. We were only able to get hamburger buns and jam, that was what we ate for a whole week before we went back to the food bank. At one point my mom gave us her food because she didn’t want to see us not having anything to eat. We learned even though fruit grows on trees, food doesn’t come free.

I live in an apartment in the west side of Fresno. People say it’s horrible. There are drug dealers and drive-by shootings sometimes. There are people that do drugs around. But as long as you stay clear from them, they don’t bother you. My apartment is surrounded by fencing, so I feel safe at night.

My mom and stepdad get one room and my two older sisters get another room. That leaves me with no room. I sleep in the living room with an air mattress next to the sofa. It’s not the greatest thing, but I’d rather be sleeping on an air mattress than on the floor.

I used to be the black sheep of the family. I would sneak out easily since I was right next to the door, and no one could tell I was leaving.

Sept. 25, 2013

The last week of my pregnancy, I ate a lot of takeout and fast food. I had McDonald’s breakfasts two days in a row. I didn’t mind it. It was food.

My baby boy was born on September 11, 2013. It’s crazy how you look at the baby that was in you, and now you’re holding him in your arms and you think, ‘wow, you were in me for the past nine months.’ On the day he was born, I found out about a new kind of love.

Now that I have the baby, I have to watch my diet, because I really want to go back to my original weight.

I’ve never told anyone my weight before, but I’m going to tell you now. By the end of my pregnancy, I was at 200 lbs. When I found out about my weight, I started crying. Now I need to start watching what I eat and stay away from McDonald’s or junk food.