I usually start off Food Tank’s weekly newsletter with a greeting from somewhere around the world: Anaheim, Austin, Dakar, Seoul, or another fun location where Food Tank has an event or where I get the honor of speaking. Today, I greet you from my home office in Baltimore, MD. I know how lucky I am to have a job that lets me work from anywhere, a loving family—a cool husband who also works in agriculture, a mom and parents-in-law who all live nearby, and stepkids who remind me why we all need to make the world a better place—and friends who check in on me.
As many of you may be experiencing, the world seems very surreal right now, with runs on grocery stores and quiet streets. Schools and restaurants shut down. Farmers and farm and food workers wondering when their next paychecks will come. There are countless farmers markets that won’t be open this weekend or even this month. So it might seem like there’s not a lot of good news out there. But the joy of working on food and agriculture issues, for me, is that I know so many amazing heroes.
Take Chef José Andrés, who shut down all of his Washington, DC, restaurants to open community kitchens for those who are struggling to eat during this time. Or Chef Amy Sins in New Orleans, who is working to package meals for the elderly this week. Or ROC-United, who reminds us that restaurant and hospitality workers are on the front lines of preventing not only COVID-19, but also other infectious diseases, and they deserve our respect and a living wage.
Other heroes can be found everywhere: Arcana in Boulder, CO, has established a sliding-scale community meal service that starts at $0, and they are raising funds to support food service workers. Chef David Heide of Liliana’s Restaurant in Fitchburg, WI is offering jambalaya and soup for $5 and donating food to those without the means to pay. The Atlanta nonprofit Giving Kitchen is providing financial assistance to food service workers and connecting them to all social services they require. Farms are repurposing their land to offer childcare and meal services, the National Young Farmers Coalition is inviting farmers to share concerns and solutions to sustain themselves, and companies like FreshDirect are donating meals, trucks, and volunteers to make sure food pantry clients still get meals.
The past week has also led my co-founder and Food Tank Board Chair, Bernard Pollack, and I to think about our jobs as conveners around food and agriculture. It’s always been part of our ethos to bring people together at our events, through webinars, and on our podcast to have blunt, honest, and open dialogue about some of the most pressing issues in food and agriculture. To have food justice advocates on the same stage as big business, to have farmers and nutritionists understand why they need to work together, to have policymakers and journalists and creative thinkers truly listen to one another. And we’re still going to create those opportunities for conversation. Over the next few months, we’re turning our attention toward virtual ways of convening. Just because we all need to hunker down doesn’t mean we can’t co-create solutions for the food system.
Starting Wednesday, March 18, I’m going to be conducting live interviews every day featuring incredible guest speakers. We have Raj Patel at 5:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, and these interviews will continue at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST every day thereafter.
You can tune in live on Food Tank’s YouTube channel, on Facebook Live, and on our Twitter account. If you can’t watch live, the replay will be available on FoodTank.com and on Food Tank’s IGTV account on Instagram. Plus, the audio will be accessible on our podcast, Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, which can be accessed on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, and Stitcher.
I’ll look forward to hearing what you think about our new format. As always, criticize, make suggestions, tell us who you’d like to hear from, and give us ideas for discussions around hope and success in these changing times. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, stay well!