by Anna Prizzia
The recent COVID 19 crisis has highlighted that we have been relying on the most vulnerable – the nurse, the food service worker, the factory worker, the janitor, the teacher, the activist, the undocumented, the social worker, the farmer – to keep our economy moving.
Even though these workers are showing that they are vital to our daily lives, they have often benefited the least, fighting for basic benefits and living wages.
While this pandemic is a time of uncertainty, I believe it is also a time for powerful change – a time to look to our past and remember the ways we have used extortionary hardship to create extraordinary transformation. Some examples that come to mind are the Jim Crow laws and the movement that led to the Civil Rights act and the Great Depression as a catalyst for social security.
We now have an opportunity for another transformation; one where we center our policies and our economy on the needs of our community and on protecting and honoring those that serve us daily and provide the services that we have come to rely on. It is more important than ever to buy local and support our local economy.
Luckily, here in Gainesville, our community is already taking up this call. We are seeing a huge surge in efforts that are built to provide support for the people that need it most and that allow us to help each other. Since my lens is often focused on the food system, here are some of the resources and opportunities to give back from that perspective:
Civic Media Center
CMC is being used as staging for essential mutual aid efforts, allowing volunteers to respond to needs in our community. They are offering free food delivery between 2:30-4:30 on Tuesdays. To volunteer or make a request, fill in their form at https://tinyurl.com/Iguana1063
Our farmers need our support more than ever. Here’s how you can help:
The downtown market is currently closed, but is looking for a new place to re-open. Let your City know this is an essential resource.The Haile Plantation and Alachua County 441 Saturday Markets are still open, and run from 8am to noon.
Working Food is offering a drive-through farm pick-up on Wednesdays 4-6 and Sat 9-11. Many of these farms have delivery options available. To learn more and see farms participating, visit https://tinyurl.com/Iguana1064
Food Service Workers
Food service workers will be some of the hardest hit in this crisis. Many rely on tips for survival, and are now laid off as restaurants shutter. Ways you can help:
Keep ordering from your favorite local restaurants so they can remain open. Order a meal for you, and consider ordering one for a friend or first responder.
Give a meal to family in need – Working Food has a meal program set-up in collaboration with community support organizations, and for $35 you can provide a meal for a family of 4. See http://cfncf.org/workingfoodrelief/
Send some love via a virtual tip jar: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gainesvilletips/
Our faith organizations are stepping up. Catholic Charities and the Alachua County Christian Pastors Association are helping, as are our soup kitchens and foodbanks, like Grace Marketplace and Bread of the Mighty Food Bank, by getting food and organizing food distribution efforts in collaboration with the City of Gainesville, Alachua County, and Farmshare.
Learn more on their facebook pages:
University of Florida
UF is still offering emergency food assistance for anyone affiliated with UF through the Allan and Cathy Hitchcock Field and Fork Pantry. See: https://fieldandfork.ufl.edu
In the long run, we need our institutions to use their buying power to ensure our food system is sustainable and fair, so these crises don’t hit so hard. Let them know this matters!
Our school board has shown leadership in this by signing on to the Good Food Purchasing Program at https://goodfoodpurchasing.org
A coalition of community organizations has begun a campaign to ask UF to also add standards in their upcoming food service contract. Learn more and sign on to signal your support here: https://foodjusticeleague.org
If you are looking for a resource and don’t know where to turn, Alachua County has a website and hotline to help: visit https://tinyurl.com/Iguana1065 or call 311.
Seeing all the amazing ways our community is responding to this challenge reminds me of metamorphosis – the incredible process of change from a caterpillar to a butterfly. At first the caterpillar dissolves and it must seem that hope is lost, but then the cells reconnect with one another, combining as one, and something incredible happens – they work as a team until transformation occurs – and all those separate cells become a butterfly.
Our community is adapting and working together in new and creative ways we could have never imagined in order to provide support, relief, and hope. More than ever we need to work together.
Oddly, this may look like social distancing so we can make sure those on the front lines can do their job. It can also look like ordering a meal from a local restaurant, buying your essentials from a locally-owned store, providing funding to the community organizations doing relief efforts, and volunteering if you can safely do so.