Guest Post By Fiona Brodie
With COVID-19 and sheltering-in-place, our food habits are changing. We’re buying food less frequently and in larger quantities - there’s no quick trip to the grocery store for a single stick of butter. We’re eating the food that is available to us, not necessarily the food that we would typically select. And, we’re finally using those forgotten items that have been sitting in our pantry for… years?
But, as the shelter-in-place has continued, food providers have developed new systems for food distribution that are designed to get us the food that we need, in the safest way possible. Large supermarkets aren’t the only ones making changes. Farmers’ markets, mom-and-pop shops, and other environmentally conscious food providers are too. Now, we can get our food safely, and do so while remaining true to our social and environmental values.
Below we’ve listed ways to support local farms, small businesses, and food waste warriors in this time of Coronavirus. To see where you’ll be shopping next, read on!
*Note: As we’re located in the Bay Area, most of these initiatives are too. But, look out for similar programs in the place where you live.
Support Local Farms: Shop at the Farmers’ Market
We’ve all been told that buying a local tomato is better than buying an imported one, but why? It’s pretty simple. Local means fresh, means sustainable (a shorter distance traveled means fewer carbon emissions), and buying local also helps to build community.
In the Bay Area, the nonprofit CUESA (the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is the machine that keeps our farmers’ markets running. Currently, the organization is working night and day to keep the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market open (as the other markets are closed) and to do so, it has made some major changes to the way that the market typically operates - changes designed to keep buyers and sellers safe and to keep farmers financially afloat during these trying times.
CUESA has implemented a variety of new rules regarding shopping and selling at the Ferry Plaza Market. The organization has installed handwashing stations, and has eliminated café seating, sampling, and self-service (now is not the time to be squeezing every avocado until you find the perfect one). CUESA has also eliminated cancellation fees for vendors, to encourage those who feel unwell to stay home.
If the thought of going to the farmer’s market still has you stressed, you’ve got another option. CUESA offers curbside, contactless pickup at the Ferry Plaza market. To learn more, click here.
Support Small Businesses: Buy from your neighborhood grocer
Mom-and-Pop shops are working hard to adapt to the new way of life that has been thrust upon us, and to keep competitive with larger supermarkets. The Berkeley Organic Market and Deli in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley, for example, is offering customers curbside pick-up. Call the shop, place your order, pay over the phone, and pick up your goods (they’ll pop them right in your trunk). We can safely guess that other small shops are making similar accommodations. Give your nearest grocery store a call to see what services they might be offering.
Fight Food Waste: Purchase from Imperfect Foods
Imperfect Foods is a great place to turn to for produce during this time, or any time really. The company offers a range of food delivery boxes containing produce and other food items that, had they not intervened, would have been thrown away because of their unconventional shape or not-too-far-off expiration date. In buying from Imperfect Foods, you get fresh and nutritious food and you partake in the fight against food waste. We’re pretty obsessed with what they’re doing, ‘cause you know, fighting food waste is our thing too.
Imperfect Foods delivers nationwide and offers its boxes at a discounted price to people who qualify for SNAP. And, as if Imperfect Foods wasn’t perfect enough, the organization is offering free delivery to low-income seniors during the shelter-in-place.
Get this! Imperfect Foods has also implemented new rules regarding the delivery of their food boxes to ensure the safety of both their customers and employees. Delivery drivers are now texting customers when their food is on the stoop - there’s no knocking on doors or ringing doorbells. The company has also halted its packaging reuse program. While typically the reuse of boxes is something we’d cheer on, we totally understand the importance of stopping this practice during these crazy times.
Shop in a way that makes you feel good
You can hold onto your values, even in a time of crisis! In the comments section below, share with us any other food services that you’re using during the shelter-in-place that promote local food, small businesses, and sustainability. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and please, stay home!
Fiona Brodie makes environmental science accessible to a wide audience. She has a master’s degree in Urban Environmental Management from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from UC Berkeley. She loves traveling and learning about sustainability projects around the world. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.