Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) was started with the goal of trying to help people see how various forms of oppression are connected. By focusing on food (which does involve racism, sexism, poverty, etc.), we could show how our choices are connected and how they impact both human and non-human animals globally and locally. We wanted to provide information and tools to inform people and help them eat their ethics. What we are now living through is a model of that, but honestly, it’s just as tragic when we don’t look after one another.
Now we are seeing exactly what people have been trying to avoid seeing. Many vegans have only wanted to see the non-human animals, and we also have those who ignore how the consumption of animals leads to many diseases and additional injustices not only to non-human animals but also to our planet and people. We need to rid ourselves of that type of thinking.
As many of us know, COVID-19 has just proven what we know: that racism and inequalities that exist for Black, Indigenous, and Brown people in this country are a barrier to success and living healthy lives. Our communities have been losing lives due to police violence, lack of health care, lack of healthy food, lack of clean drinking water, environmental racism, lack of living wages, and the list goes on; however, what makes COVID-19 even more dangerous is that these problems still exist and in some ways are exacerbated.
Here’s how this relates to the work of F.E.P.:
Farm workers, who have always been essential workers, are now being considered this in name only. Only in Black, Indigenous, and Brown communities has produce been considered a luxury – everyone needs healthy fruits and vegetables and yet produce is only now being recognized for what it is: absolutely necessary.
But many farm workers are not receiving any benefits – not even those placed for agriculture – because many of the people who pick our foods are undocumented. So, they are forced to work in hazardous conditions – exacerbated by COVID-19 – and get nothing except low wages. They pay taxes in this country. Again, they are the working poor.
As we already know, farm workers live in crowded conditions and travel together, as many do not earn enough money to buy cars (or even put a roof over their heads).
And as many of us also know, it’s not only the farm workers who are considered essential now but so are grocery store workers. All these workers should be getting hazard pay as well as paid childcare as we know students are still “in school” at home.
Speaking of schools, consider how many kids are now engaged in e-learning. But what about the children who do not have computers or internet at home – what happens to them?
And what about the teachers who are now being forced to learn technology and quickly adjust to teaching online? Again, more low-paid workers.
More people are turning to backyard chickens (keep in mind these seem to be the more privileged folks). Why must the desire to live involve the taking of a life? Especially in a time with so much death and suffering?
Our prisons are filled with Black and Brown people in close proximity, which is where COVID-19 can flourish.
People’s panic has led to food scarcity for everyone – though it’s most hurtful to communities that already lack access to food, which includes farm workers. We have seen people panic about not having food but not recognizing those who are providing them with food.
For many people this is the first time they have gone to the store and not been able to find tofu or frozen veggies, but for many this is a daily reality. I would say it is as if the universe is desperately wanting people to see how others live, but it is not the universe’s fault. It is scared people who, again, only think of themselves.
Racists are shameless creatures and at a time like this see no limits to their hate. Across the world, many of them use the current crisis as an excuse to vilify the Chinese (and any others who they feel happen to bear a resemblance) along with their culture anywhere they happen to live, but this should be met with the same force they put out.
People all over the world are suffering and dying, and now is not a time that we should allow this hate. I had the privilege of hearing Angela Davis speak recently, and she made a point to not say the name of the theoretical leader of our country. Why? She said naming something gives it power.
So, I won’t say the person’s name either, but I will want to remind people to read a blog I posted long before they were ever president discussing how these situations must be called out: https://foodispower.org/chipping-away-at-injustices/
An article came out in California last week explaining that those who voted for the president tend to be the people ignoring the shelter-in-place guidelines.
This makes what we can do so very, very necessary. It is important to remember that not everyone can keep the six-foot distance, that not everyone can wash their hands often (due to lack of clean water), but these are things those of us who are more privileged can do and must do for others. For those who cannot wash their hands, I do; for those, who don’t have the privilege of social distancing, I stay six feet apart from others; for those who cannot pay rent, I stand with your rent strike.
I am angry, and I am scared. I am overwhelmed at the loss of life and the pain so many people are experiencing not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones. But I am more determined than ever that we must truly fight the systems that have a role in how we got here.
I say with pride that I want free healthcare, free rent, free education, free public transit and anything that will create more equity in this country.
I hope people will recognize how we are all connected. If we just look at the doctors – they need to eat, people need to feed them; the people who feed them need to eat, need to have a place to live; and so on. What we are seeing is some recognition of the connection but not equity when it comes to compensation.
The hope in all of this is that people will learn empathy, they learn to take care of each other, and we realize the current system that this country has based itself on is not the answer.
But right now, for those who can’t, we wash our hands, stay indoors, and social distance. We don’t shop on the 1st or 2nd of the month to ensure those who use EBT have food to buy, we don’t horde, we support local restaurants (especially those owned by Black and Brown folx), we support our local artists – especially Black and Brown – we support everything that can dismantle tools of injustice and let our lawmakers know how we feel, regardless of how we feel about them. And we hold workers who cannot work at home, single moms, single dads, and others in our hearts.
If this were a sci-fi movie, at the end when we all can open our doors (these movies never take into consideration workers who are always outside, but I digress) and the sun is shining and the virus is gone, and we would look around and all feel some sort of comradery and figure out a way forward together for a happy, peaceful world and figure out how to do better for each other.
Like I said, that is a Hollywood ending, which isn’t realistic. But what is realistic is for all of us, in our own lives, not to rely on others to make changes, but for those with privilege, we can make these changes in our lives, in our own outlook, in our own ways we spend on our money, in how we look at each other, and in how we help each other.
Truly wishing everyone and their loved one’s good health.