We are in a scary and unprecedented time as the COVID-19 virus rapidly spreads across communities and borders. Life as we know it is changing by the day as schools, restaurants, bars, and stores close and more and more of us are staying home in order to slow the spread of the virus. There are some resources at the end of this post on why social distancing is so critical right now. Please share widely.) We are lucky that all NFFC staff can work from home and we are heeding the health experts by cancelling our travel plans for the foreseeable future. We know this is a privilege. Farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food workers, and many more don’t have this luxury and it’s causing tremendous anxiety.
Keeping our physical distance by no means suggests limiting human contact in other ways — most importantly, by being humane with each other. In my neighborhood, we are sending texts when someone goes to the store to see who else needs something picked up. When we see each other on the trails walking our dogs, we spend a little more time talking and catching up (at a safe distance) than we would have just a week ago.
Maintaining connectivity is critical right now. We know rural communities have been feeling isolated for a long time already and our urban counterparts are now getting a glimpse into that isolation. Please check in with friends and family, particularly those who are elderly or immune-compromised.
We are also learning that these times are making many people slow down and appreciate the close community and resources they have around them. Their family, neighbors, pets, reading, the outdoors… these relationships are therapeutic and they are taking advantage of this time to enrich them. In China and across Italy, people are singing together out of their windows to raise their spirits. In many ways, these are anxious times. In many ways, these can be times to get back in touch with our humanity and each other without having to touch each other.
In terms of the food system, the pandemic will impact farmers, rural communities, and people who rely on food assistance in ways that are only beginning to emerge. The Food and Environment Reporting Network has been reporting on the potential impact of the virus on our food supply chain and on farmers who sell at farmers’ markets. The House of Representatives passed an emergency relief package last week that includes $1 billion in funding for low-income students at shuttered schools who rely on school meals and other emergency food measures; the Senate has yet to take it up. Additionally, on Friday, the Canadian Parliament hastily passed the USMCA — otherwise known as NAFTA 2.0 — before going into recess until late April. This vote effectively ratifies the trade deal, which NFFC and our allies have been fighting for many months.
More on how all of our communities are faring will emerge in the coming weeks, but we already see signs that NFFC’s call for relocalizing the food system is even more important in a time of such uncertainty. Without ignoring the real pain and loss many are suffering, we also must lift up the need to raise, grow, and catch our food in ways that are closer to our communities and enriching to all.
NFFC wishes our members and supporters good health and patience for the coming weeks. Please take care of yourselves and your community in this uncertain time.