Not exactly the best news to wake up to on a Monday: The Atlantic reports that nearly 500,000 children harvest nearly a quarter of all crops in the United States.
The issue is gaining attention during National Farmworker Awareness week (until March 29), and the stats aren't pretty. Children as young as 6 years old are in the fields, and earn a staggeringly low $1,000 per year for as much as 30 hours of work per week. As a result, the children and other migrant workers can barely afford the food they pick. Writes Helene York: "When you consider that the average annual pay for a migrant family of four is $12,500-$14,500, it's apparent why some families feel they have no choice but to bring their children into the fields with them. Half of these kids will not graduate high school because they're always moving around, perpetuating the cycle of poverty that caused them to be day laborers in the first place."
The fruits and veggies that they're harvesting, says York include onions from Texas, peppers from Tennesee, grapes from California, and mushrooms from Pennsylvania, among others.
Child labor laws forbid children in other professions to work, but the laws don't extend to farms, where children can work on larger farms at age 12, says the Human Rights Watch. The laws were created in the 1930s, when children working on farms was an accepted part of life. The best solution to aid children migrant workers would be to raise food prices, York says. The recent one-cent price increase for Florida tomatoes equals a whopping 40 percent pay increase for migrant workers — a huge victory for them.