Policy Platforms and asks: COVID-19 edition
by Nicole Sugerman, Policy Manager
Our world has been upended, and it’s safe to say at this point that we won’t see “normal” anytime soon. The fissures, gaps, and wholesale failures revealed by this pandemic are not new; they are the same fissures that already existed under our current political and economic systems. The pandemic is revealing, once again, that until we make systemic, radical change led by those most marginalized by our current system, crises will continue to harm already marginalized communities – the poor, people of color, disabled, undocumented, and others – hardest and most. This is unacceptable.
Besides merely surviving our day-to-day – caring for our loved ones, putting food on the table, and trying to preserve our physical and mental health – our responsibility in this moment is to make sure we fight for good during and in the aftermath of this catastrophe. In moments of deep shock to the system, there are opportunities to push what is possible. This opportunity is and will continue to be exploited by organizations mobilizing in favor of multiple political agendas, so it's crucial that we use it to put into place policies and practices that will make our society more just, equitable, and compassionate toward all, both inside and beyond the food system.
There are so many lists going around right now and so many people and organizations are working really hard to push out great ideas and actions. Instead of adding to the noise, I am just going to highlight a few policy platforms and opportunities that we should be throwing our collective power behind. Want to figure out how to personally plug in? E-mail me and I would be happy to help navigate.
For comprehensive policy platforms, I’ve been looking to:
- HEAL Food Alliance has developed a platform from their members’ priorities, covering farm and food workers, food access, small-scale producers, and food systems
- Food Chain Workers Alliance has comprehensive workers-rights demands in this petition: Front Line Food Workers Need Protections NOW
- This platform is a collaborative effort by Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), Why Hunger, Farm Aid, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), and HEAL, advocating for systemic food systems change and livelihood support for farmers and ranchers.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has policy recommendations and economic analysis for small and mid-sized farmers, food access, and local food systems
- Climate Justice Alliance is unrolling the People’s Bailout, pushing for a regenerative economy, health, and a people-not-corporate recovery, in a coalition with other organizations.
While effective work is happening on a federal level, sometimes states can respond more quickly and be pushed to pass better policy; obviously, this depends on your state’s political landscape. Here are some broad buckets of good work happening on a state level. Not sure where to start? Connect with a local agriculture/workers organization or food policy council, or pick up the phone and call your governor, mayor, state representatives, or agriculture commissioner and ask them to support one or all of these policy asks. Email me if you don’t know where to start or want help with any of the above. Where possible, I have linked to an example of the policy or a source of more information.
- Classify food chain workers, including grocery store employees, packers, processors, and farmworkers as essential employees, making them eligible for free childcare and other benefits.
- Food chain, grocery, and all front line workers should receive hazard pay for work performed during the pandemic
- Farmworkers need to have PPE (personal protective equipment) for this growing season so they aren’t exposed to harmful pesticides
- Undocumented workers need to be included in ALL worker protections
- ALL workers deserve paid sick time and proper safety and health protections
- Farmers Markets, CSA pickups, and other farm businesses should be classified as essential businesses so they may remain open (with proper social distancing precautions) during the shutdown
- Technical assistance about shifting to online sales, food safety, and worker protections should be made available to farmers at no cost
- Grants or no-interest, forgivable loans should be made available to farmers for payroll, crisis management, and business losses due to COVID-19
- All states should be able to get an expedited waiver so SNAP users can use their benefits to purchase food online
- States should utilize the newly authorized pandemic EBT program as broadly as they are able
- States should classify WIC as an essential public health service and request waivers for administrative flexibility
Is your state adopting a policy that isn’t listed here? Is there a campaign at the intersection of COVID-19 and food justice we’ve overlooked? Let me know at [email protected]
Face mask scarcity leaves California farmworkers unprotected. Photo Credit: David Rodriguez