Californians honor Cesar Chavez Day with community service

In honor of Cesar Chavez Day, communities across California on Thursday are participating in a day of community service.

That includes Martha's Kitchen in San Jose, where Mayor Sam Liccardo volunteered Thursday morning, making sandwiches alongside other volunteers.

On what would have been Chavez's 95th birthday, inflation ad the cost of goods, especially groceries, are squeezing middle and lower-income families. The lines for meals at Martha's Kitchen this month have grown longer.  

"It's painfully ironic because as we're seeing what we think is a growing economy, more jobs unemployment rate close to three percent," Liccardo said as he arrived to volunteer at the San Jose soup kitchen. "What we know is the intensity in need has not abated, in fact, it's gotten worse. So we've got a lot of work to do."

Through a network of nearly 100 community partners, Martha's Kitchen provides close to 100,000 meals and 25,000 pounds of groceries every month to those in need, and is currently accepting volunteers.

"It is the farmworkers ultimately, it is their labor that produce this critical resource for all of us," Liccardo said, noting the connection to Chavez's legacy.

"Chavez stood up for human rights, he was for the people, and I think that we share that common goal," Linda Beltran, operations manager at Martha's Kitchen said. "He wanted to help as many people that were underprivileged as he could, and we are doing the same thing here. We just want to feed more and more people. There is a huge need for that in our community, and we are thankful that we were put in a position to help."

Chavez famously fought for improved working and living conditions for farmworkers in the Central Valley, he co-founded the United Farm Workers labor union in 1962 with Dolores Huerta, and championed the efforts of agricultural workers, bringing recognition and appreciation for the people who pick the food that ends up on family tables across the country. 

Other cities are participating in honoring Chavez, too. 

"What he did is not something that was resolved and in the past, but is still an ongoing thing," said Ruby Rose Amezcua, a Tamalpais High School student in San Rafael. "It’s something we need to be more aware of."

Ruby, along with other juniors and seniors marched Wednesday along the same route Chavez walked in 1970, in solidarity with typographers who were on strike at that time from the Marin Independent Journal. 

Thursday would have been Cesar Chavez's 95th birthday.