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The Importance of Community Resilience in Crisis

Written by Lynsey Horne, Slow Food SW Washington

At this point, there is not a soul in the world who hasn’t heard of COVID-19. The novel coronavirus has taken the international community by storm in the past month infecting, at the time of writing, over 3.7 million people and killing over 257,000 (according to Worldometer.com). The world, collectively, is dealing with something many people have never seen in their lifetimes and figuring out how to proceed in this time of uncertainty has not been easy.

As with most crises, those most vulnerable are bearing the brunt of the pandemic and in our own country, underlying systemic issues are making their way to the forefront of American consciousness. As millions of people remain out of work and without an income source, the number of Americans living paycheck to paycheck without a safety net becomes an even starker reality and putting food on the table has become a very real concern. The issue has compounded further as the crisis has played out over the past two months, as larger food supply chains have started to break.

The fact is that, even without a global pandemic, the US’s industrial food system is woefully unequipped to ensure all Americans have equitable access to fresh, healthy food. Add in a crisis at this level and we begin to see crops tilled under, milk dumped, meat packing plants becoming viral hotspots, all while more people than ever before are worried about where their next meal will be coming from. Amid all the turmoil, however, there’s a beautiful seed sprouting- widespread, grassroots, community resilience efforts.

For Slow Food Southwest Washington, this has taken the form of encouraging community residents to grow their own food, avoid grocery stores, and promote food justice. The chapter’s Urban Abundance program, which is typically holding biweekly volunteer events, began a campaign at the end of March to send seeds for free to anyone who wanted them in hopes of supporting food sovereignty from afar. The campaign was highly successful with almost 100 participants, and the program has sent out around 1,000 vegetable, herb, and wildflower seed packets over the past month and a half. Hopefully, these are seeds of change that represent not only increased home food production, but a new developing practice of folks prioritizing connection to their food supply.

The importance of local food production, equitable access to healthy food, and caring for edible landscapes has very much been underscored by what the world is collectively dealing with right now. As society faces a global pandemic, we see now, perhaps more than ever before, the importance for ourselves and our neighbors to have the skills and knowhow to opt out of a crippled industrial food system and opt in to one that serves everyone.