Essential Food and Agriculture Workers Need Our Support During COVID-19
Updated: May 12, 2021
By: Jes Walton and Charlotte Tate
Millions of people throughout our food supply chains, from farms to delivery drivers, are risking their health to ensure food makes it to our tables. Many of these workers lack necessary safety nets even as they face greater risk from COVID-19.
Along with these trying times comes the opportunity to reshape a new normal—one where all people are supported, essential workers are treated as essential, and society works for all people and the planet. Here are actions to support a more just food system locally and nationally:
ACTIONS TO TAKE IN DC
Buy directly from farmers
Many farmers and farmworkers are feeling the impacts of COVID-19. Some have been able to pivot, selling directly to consumers. When you purchase directly from farms, more money goes to farmers, their employees, and their environmental/agricultural values.
In DC, farmers markets are open with safety protocols. Farmers and markets have creative alternatives like pre-ordering and quick pick up. Farmers may be selling virtually and even offering delivery—contact your favorites to learn more.
Take action to keep DC farmers markets open and classified as essential.
Support local food hubs, CSAs, and co-ops
Look into local CSA programs, many of which may be seasonal but are worth researching for spring.
When shopping from a traditional grocer, try to find a local chain and remember to be kind, patient, and thankful to those putting their health at risk to make sure stores stay up and running. Don’t forget to wear a mask and respect physical distancing guidelines.
Reconsider delivery services
Many delivery drivers do not have access to benefits like paid sick leave because of their employment classification. The delivery apps, like Uber or Instacart, often take a percentage of profits from local businesses.
If possible, prioritize picking up your food instead of delivery. For other actions, visit Gig Workers Rising to stand with delivery drivers.
Grow your own food
Gardening is a great lockdown activity that can contribute to your own food security and relieve some of the pressure on our food system. During WWII, millions of Americans grew 40% of the country’s produce in Victory Gardens.
Today, we’re advocating for Climate Victory Gardens that also prioritize our planet’s health, learning from examples like the Glover Park Community Garden—started in 1939—that’s both an original Victory Garden and modern Climate Victory Garden.
Contribute to local mutual aid funds
Mutual aid funds are a great way to support those in your community, including food and agriculture workers that may need a little extra help right now. Check out this extensive list of national and DC-based mutual aid funds.
ACTIONS FOR IMPACT BEYOND DC
To support ALL essential workers, including those that work in food and agriculture, call on Congress to pass an Essential Workers Bill of Rights!
Protect agricultural workers
Many farmworkers do not have health insurance or paid sick leave. Our system relies on these workers and takes advantage by not providing the necessary benefits.
Farmworkers feed us all and many farmworkers are migrant workers. Many workers, especially migrant workers, have been left out of COVID-19 relief efforts, despite being essential and our food system relying on their labor. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a worker-led human rights organization, is calling on the Florida governor to protect farmworkers who supply food to throughout the country —support farmworkers here!
Ensure grocery store and warehouse workers are protected
Many chains struggled to respond to COVID-19, resulting in workers not being provided the needed protections. For example, at Whole Food’s parent company, Amazon, over 19,000 employees have contracted COVID-19. A company as profitable as Amazon/Whole Foods should be providing basic workplace protections. Tell Amazon to respect workers and the planet today!
Support workers in meat packing facilities and buy local, regenerative meats:
More than 44,000 workers in meatpacking facilities around the country have contracted COVID-19 and over 200 have died. Venceremos, worker-driven organization in Arkansas, is calling on Tyson Foods to protect its workers and provide paid sick leave and sign the petition here!
Instead of buying factory farmed and processed meat, look to smaller, local ranchers and processors for meat, dairy, and eggs that come from animals raised in a humane way that’s good for people and the planet. Regeneratively managed flocks and herds are also part of the climate solution.
Know of other local and national groups doing great work to support food and agriculture workers? Please share them with us!
Jes Walton, Food Campaigns Director, Green America
Jes has worked at many levels of the food system, from time spent on a small organic farm to studying federal agricultural policy, with many stops in between. Currently, her work focuses on regenerative agriculture, gardening, and the impacts of pesticides on people and the planet.
Charlotte Tate, Labor Justice Campaigns Director
Charlotte’s work is centered at the intersection of environmental and labor issues, focused on toxic chemical exposure in apparel, child labor in cocoa, and holding online retailers accountable. She works to educate and mobilize US consumers to advance environmental and labor rights throughout supply chains.