On this Covid-19 Response page we’ve outlined some actions you can take to support local communities both at the grassroots and policy levels during this time of crisis. We’ve also compiled examples of community solidarity in action during the pandemic, and provided links to our blogs and other articles for further reading.
The coronavirus outbreak has sent shockwaves through people’s lives. The world’s healthcare systems have become overwhelmed, and many loved ones have been lost. While some of us have been able to stay safe by working from home, others have been torn between the conflicting demands of economic necessity and personal health, and many people have lost their jobs. In many places, small and local businesses have borne the brunt of the economic impact.
Meanwhile, our social lives have largely moved online – a poor substitute for the real thing. In times of turmoil, what we most long for are handshakes and hugs, not Zoom calls and Facetime. As we all navigate these new circumstances, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.
Core features of the global economy – from habitat destruction and hyper-urbanization to factory farming and genetic manipulation – have heightened the risk of outbreaks like Covid-19. And economic globalization, long touted as an unstoppable force, is now revealed to be highly fragile: long supply chains that stretch halfway across the world easily break under this kind of strain. There have already been shortages of food and other essential goods.
To ensure that we are prepared to withstand future shocks in an age of economic instability and climate chaos, we need to think carefully about our social and economic systems. We need to recognize that the real economy is the living earth, and begin sowing the seeds of more ecological economies that treat people like members of a community, not numbers on a page. In short:
We need to localize like we’ve never localized before!
That means providing support to small businesses and community groups that are currently under so much stress. Since food is at the center of the entire economy, let’s begin by making sure that small, local farms remain lifelines in this time of need. Even when the current crisis is behind us, we’ll benefit from stronger local food economies – from local markets linked to diversified farms that provide healthy, nutrient-dense foods without poisoning the environment, eliminating jobs, or erasing biodiversity.
Resources to support small farmers and local food systems
How to Fix a Food Sytem That’s not Designed to Feed People by Debbie Weingarten, Huffpost
In times of pandemic, peasants are united to feed the people, La Via Campesina: #StayHomeButNotSilent
COVID-19 and the Crisis in Food Systems: Symptoms, Causes, and Potential Solutions: Communiqué by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems
Food Enterprises and Covid 19: Open Food Network
What Can Consumers Do During the COVID-19 Crisis to Support Family Farms & Our Local Food System?: Community Alliance with Family Farms
Selling Direct & Online During the COVID-19 Crisis: Community Alliance with Family Farms
How to Increase Food Production in Your Community: Cooperative Gardens Commission
Sign-up form: Cooperative Gardens Commission
Resource Guide for Institutional Food Systems and COVID-19 (Northeast USA)
COVID-19 and its Impacts on the Farm and Food System: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Mitigating Immediate Harmful Impacts of COVID-19 on Farms and Ranches Selling through Local and Regional Food Markets: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):
Neighbor Loaves: Supporting area farmers, millers, bakers, and eaters: Grain Collaborative
Coronavirus Could Usher In A New Era Of Local, Sustainable Eating, by Olivia Paschal, Huffpost
How you can save locally-owned businesses: Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Farmers Markets Respond to COVID-19 — Best Practices, Examples, and Resources (Farmers Market Coalition)
Farmers Markets Respond to COVID-19: Farmers Market Coalition
Curbside Farmers Market Pickup and Local Food Home Delivery (San Francisco)
Six Ways You Can Support Farmers during Covid-19: Landworkers’ Alliance
Coronavirus Food Alert: Sustain
How to support local food and drink businesses during the Coronavirus crisis: Local Food Britain
Coronavirus Support Page: Landworkers’ Alliance
Community and solidarity examples
On Bali, Indonesia, the collapse of the tourist economy has led many people to turn to return to villages and develop livelihoods in the food economy, which is inherently more stable. Collective farms are emerging, and, as one farmer puts it ‘even though the tourism sector has collapsed, Balinese are not going to starve’. Read more: here.
In Mexico City, the disruption of global supply chains has served to bolster local indigenous farmers, who are bringing back the ancient Aztec tradition of growing food in chinampas, or “floating gardens”. These farmers are protecting cultural heritage, enhancing ecosystems and providing fresh, local food to residents. Now, they are seeing sales increase by 100 to 120 percent. Read more here.
In the Navajo nation, farmer Tyrone Thompson is helping people return to their agricultural roots by teaching and encouraging them to farm. According to one researcher; ‘There has been a surge in interest. Seeds were hard to come by. They flew off the shelves just as fast as toilet paper did’. Read more here.
World Central Kitchen is repurposing chef Jose Andres’ restaurant kitchens as soup kitchens, and building a movement to support other restaurants across the USA in doing the same. Check out their country-wide map of free meals from governments, nonprofits, and restaurants. One of Andres’ restaurants, Beefsteak Veggies, is also packaging up wholesale produce and staple goods for retail sale, in an effort to preserve supply chains with local farmers, and to alleviate crowding and shortages in larger grocery stores.
The city council of Victoria, British Columbia has expanded its urban food production program by temporarily reassigning some parks department staff to grow 50,000 to 75,000 seedlings to give to residents in May and June.
The Chicago Farmer’s Market Collective is helping its vendors develop pickup, delivery, and CSA options for customers who are unable to go to the markets in person.
In an article titled “Farmers are among the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic”, a melon farmer in a village near Chennai, India reports that due to the lockdowns, he is now able to sell all of his produce directly to his neighbors, rather than to a chain of middlemen.
In the city of Cagayan de Oro, in the Philippines, activist group The Greenthumbers has successfully advocated with the local Archbishop to ask both clergy and worshippers to set up and communal gardens, and to call on those who have land to open their lots for planting vegetables and native alternatives to rice.
In Rome, Italy, a cooperative formed by formerly-exploited African migrants is working tirelessly to fill the increased demand for deliveries of fresh produce and yogurt for people on lockdown. The Guardian shares their story.
Volunteers with Feedback Global, which organizes gleaning groups across England, are recovering unpicked vegetables from fields around Kent, gathering unused food from closed cafes, restaurants, and wholesalers, and cooking it into meals for the community.
Hundreds of Mutual Aid Networks across the world are mobilizing volunteers to deliver essential items to and regularly check in on the elderly and others at high risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
- Covid-19 Mutual Aid (UK)
- Mutual Aid USA
- Mutual Aid Hub
- COVID-19 Mutual Aid Directory (USA)
- Mutual Aid Offers and Goods – Common Good (USA)
- Viral Kindness (Australia)
MN CovidSitters, started by a medical student in Minnesota, USA, has paired more than 350 student volunteers with healthcare workers to help them with childcare, grocery shopping, and whatever else they and their families need – and is inspiring other medical schools to do the same.
IDEP Foundation is helping families in Bali, Indonesia who were reliant on income from tourism by distributing buckets with a month’s supply of cleaning and hygiene products, staple foods, organic vegetable seeds, and educational materials about COVID-19.
People in cities all over the USA have started virtual tip jars – simple spreadsheets with names and electronic payment options – to help laid-off restaurant staff.
The New Economy Coalition has put together a list of COVID-19 emergency funding sources to help workers across sectors whose livelihoods have been destabilized by the economic changes.
In Washington, DC, the Adams Morgan Business Improvement District has started a #restaurantbonds campaign to encourage people to invest their money in local businesses via gift cards rather than in corporate stocks and bonds.
Members of the Barcelona Street Vendors’ Union in Spain, no longer able to work due to stay-at-home restrictions, have joined forces with a local clothing company to sew masks for healthcare workers. Proceeds from the masks go to a food bank serving – and highlighting the presence of – the often-invisible African migrant communities that comprise a majority of the union.
Several distilleries, including Spirit of York in Ontario, Canada has begun producing hand sanitizer locally and distributing it to their communities.
The new international network Open Source Medical Supplies publicizes designs of safe personal protective equipment (PPE) that can be manufactured by local communities. Within two weeks of its inception, 95+ local chapters, from Ireland to Indonesia, were at work sourcing open-source designs for PPE and medical devices, translating documents, and working out the logistics of manufacturing supplies locally.
In University Heights, Ohio, residents created a daily Time Out Together event, where they all go outside (maintaining a safe distance) at 6:30pm each day to say hello and feel a sense of togetherness.
In solidarity with their 80-year-old neighbor, a community in Madrid left a cake on her porch and sang “Happy Birthday” to her in unison from their windows. Watch the heartwarming video here.
Articles on Covid-19
Solutions to the Pandemic Are Hiding in Plain Sight
by Ashley Colby
Degrowth, Coronavirus and Self Isolation
by Brian Davey
by Charles Eisenstein
What happens after Covid-19?
by Colin Tudge
Why Coronavirus Is Humanity’s Wake-Up Call
by David Korten
A degrowth perspective on the coronavirus crisis
Degrowth.info editorial team
Make no mistake: Agriculture alone has the potential to reboot the economy
by Devinder Sharma
Here and ready: the value of peasant agriculture in the context of COVID-19
by European Coordination Via Campesina
CSAs Became a Lifeline in the Pandemic for Consumers and Farmers
Hawaii Business Magazine
What if Local and Diverse Is Better Than Networked and Global?
NY Times profile of Helena Norberg-Hodge
The Only Treatment for Coronavirus Is Solidarity
by Jedediah Britton-Purdy
Spoiled Milk, Rotten Vegetables and a Very Broken Food System
by Jennifer Clapp
The Deeper Source of Grocery Panic
by Judith D. Schwartz
The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now
by Katie Brimm
Why Now, More than Ever, We Need a Food System based on Food Sovereignty
by Landworkers’ Alliance
The birth of Covid-19 mutual aid
by Marianne Brooker
Call to Action for the US Transition Movement
by Marissa Mommaerts
No return to normal: for a post-pandemic liberation
by Max Haven
The Sickness in Our Food Supply
by Michael Pollan
A Dozen Asks for Your Governor
by Michael Shuman
Comparative Resilience: 8 Principles for Post-COVID Reconstruction
by Michael Shuman
The coronavirus pandemic and future food security
by Patrick Holden
Solidarity in a Time of Social Distancing
by Randall Amster
A virus, humanity, and the earth
by Vandana Shiva
Coronavirus and the Death of ‘Connectivity’
by Walden Bello
Four ways COVID-19 will change food systems and food security
by Wayne Roberts
Stepping Up: As government leaders bungle the coronavirus response, there’s hope in mutual aid
by Whitney Curry Whimbish