August 2020 Impact Assessment
CEFS is one of the nation’s most important centers for research, extension, and education in sustainable agriculture and community-based food systems. It is recognized as a national and international leader in the local foods movement, and celebrated for its work in building consensus around policies, programs and actions that facilitate a vibrant local food economy.
Impacts of COVID-19
COVID-19 continues to shine a light on the disparities that already exists in communities already most impacted by food systems disparity. For this reason, many of our partners and community food systems leaders have iterated the need to ensure that these issues are not seen as new or in isolation from the racial uprisings that are happening around our country, or from food systems inequities that were already present. Existing gaps across our food supply have been further exposed from lack of infrastructure for black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) farmers to engage in food distribution channels, to increased food insecurity among restaurant workers and school-aged children, to lack of adequate processing facilities for small scale meat producers. With these challenges come major innovation and opportunities. We have seen a surge in interest and networking to make local produce available to these communities as well as much more intentionality around purchasing from BIPOC growers and engaging with and funding BIPOC organizations and leaders in our communities in order to build effective, sustainable solutions. We are grateful for their leadership engagement prior to COVID and are equally grateful for their guidance going forward.
Obstacles to Sector Response
Structural inequities continue to be at the root of many of the systemic issues that face communities most impacted by disparity. Specifically, access to adequate and sustainable funding continues to be an issue. Additionally, creating relationships and channels to scale up and sustain the interest and availability to local foods by BIPOC growers and other frontline communities continues to be on the minds of many as well as maintaining that interest by consumers and institutions, particularly those who have made commitments to creating and implementing more racially equitable practices.
Successful Marketing Adaptations in Response to COVID-19
Our partners at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) worked with funders to create CSA produce boxes for restaurant employees who have been impacted economically by COVID. They were inclusive of BIPOC growers in their aggregation of boxes and worked with restaurants to distribute at locations that were accessible to their workers and mindful of challenges related to workers who may be undocumented. Additionally, we have seen more aggregation, collaboration and networking by small farmers, particularly BIPOC growers, to meet the needs of consumers who are looking to make more of an effort to support marginalized communities. Restaurants in this area have also moved their takeout menus and strategies to create more meal kits, where consumers can take home ready-made full dinners.
Impact on Sector Members
The disproportionate impact of COVID on the Black, Indigenous and Latinx populations nationwide, has equally been felt in our area. From farmworkers, to poultry and meatpacking workers, to restaurant workers and small farmers, the COVID pandemic has taken an increased toll on BIPOC communities, elevating challenges that have existed prior to the pandemic like, food insecurity, low income and unemployment, and lack of access to adequate healthcare. Additionally, rural communities continue to suffer a deeper impact in terms of access to needful services, like broadband, that allows businesses, including farm enterprises, to enable alternative methods of operation.
Desired Data and Technical Assistance
Stories as data – understanding and capturing the lived experiences of those most deeply affected/impacted. Racial data on how the pandemic has impacted different farming and food systems sectors across the supply chain
- Tracking, reporting and evaluating how effectively and fairly policies are implemented to allow for sharing, transparency and equitable distribution of available funding and resources.
- Funding opportunities
- Sales options
- Policy and regulation changes along the supply chain
- Climate change impacts, strategies and opportunities as a result of COVID
- Resources and support for farmworkers and meat/poultry plant workers (in both English and Spanish)
- Up to date COVID information available in Spanish and other languages
As mentioned previously, the consideration of how the racial uprisings in the US and globally intersect with the COVID-19 pandemic is a critical consideration and in need of a depth of understanding and analysis of the impact of COVID on frontline communities. Developing a shared understanding will further allow that institutions who are in service of the most impacted communities can be led by the knowledge, experiences and expertise of our most resilient people and places.
Contact Information for CEFS: