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Angus Journal

Copyright © 2016
Angus Media.
All Rights Reserved

In Search of Food Security

Childhood experience fuels perspective on food and health — for everyone.

SAN DIEGO, Calif., (Jan. 27, 2016) — “I want to grow old. I want to grow old in a healthy way — and I want that for everybody.” Those were among the opening remarks of Sarah Ramirez, who was the guest speaker at the American National CattleWomen’s annual meeting in San Diego, Calif., Jan. 26.

Ramirez grew up in California as the daughter of Mexican farm workers. Her parents were not American citizens at the time and relied on public assistance to raise their family. As a result of her circumstances, Ramirez noted that she and her siblings were at high risk for being high school dropouts and ending up in gangs. Additionally, they experienced food insecurity and — like many other impoverished families — witnessed family and friends become disabled and even dying from poor health due to the lack of access to nutritious food.

“We didn’t have access to nutritious food even though my parents were in the fields picking fresh produce every day,” she said.

A watershed moment for Ramirez occurred when her 41-year-old uncle — her dad’s twin brother — died from complications due to diabetes.

“That hit a cord with me. I began to question ‘What are we doing to keep ourselves healthy?” she shared with the ANCW audience.

Initially Ramirez was on the path to become a doctor, but, she said, “Then I realized the link to food and health and the opportunity to help more people. I changed my career path.”

Today, she is the executive director for FoodLink, a food pantry in Tulare County California. She notes that this county, which is the county in which she grew up, ranks first in ag production in California, as well as the United States. Despite that, it ranks high for poor health and has several “food deserts,” areas that do not have access to fresh, nutritious food.

“I’m not a traditional food bank director. I’m a teacher, community researcher, advocate and epidemiologist,” Ramirez described of herself. “I love the power of food to unify, especially toward health and culture.”

Additionally, Ramirez and her husband have co-founded BeHealthyTulare, a grass-roots collective with a focus on education. She explained, “Our goal is to democratize the food system and address access and affordability; we are building social cohesion with conversation.”

Activities have included educational programs, cooking workshops, fitness classes, initiating a garden project and implementing a no-waste system that gleans excess produce and disseminates it through FoodLink.

Through her efforts, Ramirez noted, “I’ve been surprised at how little people know about agriculture.”

Ramirez encouraged those involved in addressing hunger in their communities to “incorporate education into your food-drive efforts.” She also encouraged communicating with local food pantries to determine the specific needs, as opposed to just hosting a generic food drive.

For the future, Ramirez has her goals set on a possible mobile food pantry as well as a mobile nutrition and education unit to address food and nutrition needs in her county. “I want to reach people where they are,” she concluded.

Learn more about Ramirez’s efforts at

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