The global COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to slow the spread of the disease have highlighted the inequities and injustices of the capitalist food system. As economic activities have been restricted and global food supply chains have been interrupted, many people find themselves unable to access incomes or food. Many small-scale food producers have lost market access, or have been unable to work. Many informal food vendors have also been forced to stop selling, or have lost access to customers. At the same time, low-income communities find they are even less able to access food due to higher prices, lost incomes and fewer food retail options.
In response to these challenges, governments and civil society organisations have undertaken various relief efforts, including soup kitchens, food parcels, and various forms of social grants. Many of the formal food aid programmes actually reinforce existing inequalities, by purchasing food relief from the corporate/ industrial food sector. Such food parcels are often low in nutrients and may be distributed in ways that diminish recipients’ agency and dignity.
At the same time, communities have shown solidarity and launched mutual aid efforts to help those in need through community organising. Some of these efforts include providing assistance for people to grow their own food; linking small-scale farmers to communities in need of food; or using donations to provide vouchers that can be redeemed in informal sector food shops. What traditions and patterns of organising do these creative initiatives build on and can they help to plant further seeds for alternative, solidarity-based food systems in the future?
Photo: Brittany Kesselman