Florida farmers have launched a new foundation to benefit farmworkers, and initially it will provide $160,000 of funding for three programs related to child care, health care and education for the south Florida farmworker community.

The Farmworker Community Support Foundation—as the foundation is dubbed—has chosen the Collier Health Services and the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, both in Immokalee, and the HomesteadFla.,-based Women United in Justice, Education & Reform.

“Through the Farmworker Community Support Foundation, we can direct our outreach in additional targeted ways," says Orlando attorney Brad Hester, chairman of the foundation board. “We look forward to helping many more farmworker organizations and projects in the years to come.”

The foundation has raised more than $300,000 from Florida tomato growers so far.

The foundation is awarding $30,000 to CHS Healthcare to fund dental care for more than 500 pregnant women. Research shows a direct link between poor dental hygiene and premature births. CHS will be able to provide a basic dental exam, teeth cleaning and problem resolution.

The foundation also will grant the Redlands Christian Migrant Association $100,000, with a $50,000 challenge grant dedicated to the Wimauma Academy, an RCMA charter school for farmworker children.

RCMA will use the funding to add middle-school grades, which will help an additional 60 children. The new space will include seven classrooms, a music/art room, teacher area, kitchen and cafeteria.

The other $50,000 grant will be used for an early-childhood education program for more than 20 children of farmworkers and other low-income children in Immokalee.  RCMA, along with other non-profit organizations, including Child Care of Southwest Florida, Guadalupe and Immokalee Child Care, will manage the early-learning program.

In addition, the foundation will grant Women United in Justice $30,000 to support its “Project Vida”—a program that provides HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention services to male farmworkers living in Miami-Dade, Collier and Hillsborough counties.  Women United in Justice also plans to provide prevention kits and encourage testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases to recipients receiving assistance.

Others members of the foundation’s board of directors are Bob Spencer, vice president of sales and marketing for Palmetto, Fla.-based West Coast Tomato; Wes Wheeler, a Winter Haven, Fla., attorney; and Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.