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Immigrants have always been the backbone of America’s meatpacking plants, offering upward mobility for its newcomers.But the frontier for these large food factories has moved as the meat industry left urban centers like Chicago and Kansas City and settled its plants in small towns. Now these rural communities are struggling to provide the social services needed by a diverse population that is largely invisible to most Americans.With support from the Institute for Justice & Journalism’s “Immigration in the Heartland” fellowship, Harvest Public Media explores this challenge through the lens of two rural communities whose children are living in the shadows of two Tyson slaughterhouses: Noel, Mo., and Garden City, Kan.The children of these immigrant and refugee workers in the food supply chain are often hungry, lacking sufficient housing and seeking an education. Yet they see a bright future, out of the shadows and living the American Dream. You can see profiles of some of the kids and listen to their dreams in their own words here.Learn About Tableau

Children Of Immigrant Meatpackers Find Opportunities In Rural Areas

Peggy Lowe
Harvest Public Media

For many generations, meatpacking plants in Kansas City were a place where immigrants found a foothold in U.S. society. They worked difficult and dangerous jobs in those slaughterhouses, often with the hopes of securing a better future for their children.

In recent decades, meatpacking plants have continued to employ immigrants and refugees. But the plants have moved out of urban areas, and into rural towns, where there’s less of a support system for those immigrants and their children.

Harvest Public Media’s Peggy Lowe and Abbie Fentress-Swanson recently visited Noel, Mo.and Garden City, Kan. to learn about the lives and dreams of rural immigrant and refugee children. They found very different approaches in the two communities. Those stories were reported in the series In the Shadows Of The Slaughterhouses.

On KCUR's news program KC Currents, we teamed up with Harvest Public Media to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the children of immigrant and refugee meatpacking workers, and how Garden City has become a kind of model for the integration of immigrant and refugee children.


  • Abbie Fentress-Swanson, reporter for Harvest Public Media
  • Debra Bolton, family life educator at Kansas State University’s Research and Extension Program
Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
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