COACHELLA VALLEY—In response to the record-breaking heatwaves and the alarming rise in heat-related illnesses, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has stepped up to help the United Farm Workers Foundation and Coachella Valley farm working communities by receiving support for 200 double-wall vacuum insulated thermal flasks. These flasks, designed to keep liquids ice cold for up to 24 hours while preventing bottle sweat, will be instrumental in safeguarding the health and well-being of farm workers facing scorching temperatures that regularly exceed 100–110 degrees Fahrenheit.
“What affects our most vulnerable community members directly affects their children—our students—as they struggle to make a living by working in this extreme heat,” Thurmond said. “Farm working communities and the work that they do is vital to our food chain, economy, and children’s well-being.”
Heat-related illnesses are one of the leading weather-related causes of death in the United States. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data and United Farm Workers Foundation data, between 1992 and 2023, heat stress injuries claimed the lives of over 1,000 US workers and seriously injured more than 100,000. In California, emergency room visits due to heat-related issues increased by 35% from 2005 to 2015, with a disproportionate impact on Black, Latino, and Asian American communities. Riverside County, encompassing Coachella, Indio, and Palm Springs, has some of the highest rates of heat-related ER visits in the state.
Farm and construction workers are especially vulnerable to heat stress injuries, but workers across various industries, including warehouse employees, face risks as well. With temperatures steadily rising year after year, the threat of heat stress–related deaths and injuries is expected only to grow if not addressed urgently.
The thermal flasks secured by State Superintendent Thurmond is an important first step in mitigating these risks. Each flask will include essential heat stress awareness and prevention information to educate farm workers to protect themselves during extreme heat conditions. United Farm Workers Foundation representatives will coordinate grassroots outreach efforts, aligning with their ongoing heat stress awareness campaign, to ensure that life-saving resources reach those who need them the most.
In addition to heatwaves, Coachella Valley and the surrounding region was faced with high wind and heavy rain earlier this year triggered by Tropical Storm Hilary, resulting in serious flooding and damage. The natural disaster, which led Governor Gavin Newsom to issue a state of emergency for much of Southern California, caused widespread displacement and distress among residents and left numerous homes and communities devastated.
Donations for Coachella Valley Unified School District and other future disaster victims can be made on the SupplyBank.org Disaster Relief Fund web page. SupplyBank.org, a nonprofit organization, is joining with the California Department of Education (CDE) in collecting financial donations to build up a reserve and then direct funds and resources to areas that need it the most. The CDE will also be coordinating workshops to provide educational resources and needed services to the Coachella Valley farm working community.
The CDE offers a variety of wraparound services for farm working families, including the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and the High School Equivalency Program (HEP). More information about these services can be found on the CDE Migrant Education Resources page.