The purpose of the Bitten Falge Farm Workers Program is to procure and distribute food, blankets and clothing to poor and needy farm workers and their families in Monterey County, south county area.
Bitten Falge began serving farm workers in 1989 and passed in 2007. She, on a regular weekly schedule, distributed beans and rice (a staple food), bread, baby care items, dairy products and clothing to needy farm workers’ families in the Salinas Valley. This ministry was supported by voluntary donations of money and the physical effort of many people of different faith traditions living on the Monterey Peninsula. After her death, a group was formed in 2008 to continue her work.
Over an eighteen year span, Bitten’s weekly efforts reached over 300 families on a regular basis. She made two to three trips a week to the labor camps in south county area and/or to living quarters of farm workers. When not traveling to deliver food and clothing, Bitten was contacting various Peninsula vendors, such as Safeway and CVS Drugs, seeking contributions of, or purchases at reduced prices, items needed by the farm worker families.
Additionally, at Christmastime, Bitten procured and delivered larger amounts of food items, blankets, toys and gifts to over 450 families. All of this was accomplished with multiple trips, over the course of one week, prior to the Holidays. This tradition continues today.
Bitten always treated those she served with dignity and respect.
Since her death in August, 2007, a Carmel Mission stewardship group worked with Bishop Garcia, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul Society members, and other interested parties to continue this much needed ministry. Today, the Steering Committee is in place to continue with the work Bitten had started. Also, many individuals came forward to volunteer time and to financially support this effort. Several local businesses have continued to heavily discount toys and clothing, which has greatly helped stretch our limited resources. For example, the Monterey County Food Bank has procured and delivered our beans and rice to a storage facility at St. Theodora’s parish in Gonzales; and CVS Drug Store in Carmel has provided deep discounts on the purchase of clothing and toys for our Christmas delivery.
We have been greatly assisted by Fr. Efrain Medina, a former pastor of St. Theodora’s Church in Gonzales, who provided storage space for the beans and rice, and made available volunteers to help us deliver food to the work camps. There are four farm worker camps around Gonzales township, housing approximately 220 families (Note: the number can increase or decrease depending upon the season), of that number there are 130 families living at or below the poverty level. It is these farm workers who have been the initial focus of our efforts, although we realize the need goes beyond these four camps. It is hoped that with additional financial and volunteer support, we will be able to expand our efforts to the work camps located in or near the Greenfield, King City and San Ardo townships.
Another big challenge we have is that the cost of beans and rice has more than doubled during the past two years, which significantly impacts our financial resources. In fact, much of our volunteer time is taken up seeking additional sources of funds to maintain our efforts. For example, the Order of Malta (a charitable organization) has increased its donation from $12,000 to $25,000; however, donations from individuals and trusts have fallen from $24,000 to $17,000.