It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the coronavirus-related news happening right now. Restaurants are temporarily closing or shifting to delivery only. Grocery stores are cutting back hours in order to refill shelves. Schools are announcing extended spring breaks, and millions of Americans are social distancing and cooking at home more than ever.
But even when we feel helpless, there are ways to help. Here are eight food-related ways that you can make a difference in your own life or someone else’s.
Ask people if they need help: Use NextDoor, text message or Facebook to reach out to see if anyone needs anything that you might be able to help with. That could mean picking up groceries for an immuno-compromised person or taking care of their dog if they have to take care of a sick family member or themselves. There are lots of Facebook groups popping up to help connect people who need help with people who can give it.
Ask for help: The Central Texas Food Bank is ramping up efforts to provide both grocery supplies and hot meals to people in need. As people face lay-offs and reduced hours, many will be turning to community resources for help. The food bank’s website, centraltexasfoodbank.org, has a prominent link on the homepage to help clients find distribution sites near them. If your source of income is changing, don’t wait until your savings account is empty to use these resources.
Share resource ideas: Not everybody knows that H-E-B is offering free next-day curbside pickup or that you can order meat online through Butcher Box or Farmhouse Delivery. Or that AISD has free meals for students. (Crema Bakery is also offering free meals for students who need them over spring break.) You can get local produce delivered to your house from local farms that offer community-supported agriculture programs. Those include: Green Gate Farms, Central Texas Farmers Co-op, Blessing Falls Family Farm, Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Other options for ordering food online for delivery are Thrive Market and Imperfect Produce. Lettuce is the name of an Austin-based meal kit delivery company that can drop off all the ingredients you’d need to make a week’s worth of meals, including recipes.
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Share actual food: As many restaurants shift to pick-up or delivery only, customers who have the resources to buy a dozen cupcakes from Sugar Mama’s or pastries from Texas French Bread or baguettes from Easy Tiger might not be able to eat that many. But they could buy them and drop them off at neighbors’ or friends’ houses. (Many of these food businesses are also selling gift cards, which you could keep for yourself or give away.) If you have a garden that’s overflowing with fresh produce, consider sharing the extra. If you make a casserole or a big pot of posole, freeze some of the leftovers for yourself and consider dropping off a few servings to someone on your street who might need the food and/or a reminder that someone is thinking about them.
Conserve: If you are able to go shopping, don’t buy more than you need for the next few weeks. As people are on edge about food availability, some are buying more than they need, which could leave someone who doesn’t have a stockpile without many options.
Donate: Central Texas Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, Sustainable Food Center, Keep Austin Fed and other food non-profits are going to be working overtime for the foreseeable future, and they are going to need extra resources to do that.
Remember that social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation: Millions of Americans are working from home or trying to stay away from other people, but in many parts of the country, that doesn’t mean you have to stay in your house. Going on walks is good for your mental health, but it’s also an opportunity to wave at a neighbor you might not have met who is sitting on their front porch. Take inspiration from those videos from Italy where people are playing music while still keeping their distance. It’s not the same as sharing a meal together or going out to eat at a busy restaurant, but it has a similar effect.
Channel Rachael Ray: This might sound silly, but hear me out. The perpetually positive host of "30 Minute Meals" has always been known for having an "Oh well, we’ll make it work" attitude, which we could all use now and then, but she’s also an inspiration if you have ever, even once, thought about making food videos for the Internet. We are seeing musicians use the livestreaming function on their phones to reach fans, but I’d love to see my social media feed fill up with home cooks who have an ounce of skill showing off how they make some of their favorite dishes. We’re not talking about "Next Food Network Star" here, but everyday cooks opening their kitchens to their friends. I think there’s the possibility of real peer-to-peer educational value, but also a sense of social connection, too.