Live Well
May 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic and Opportunities for a Re-Envisioned Food System

As we’ve been reading in the press, the Coronavirus Pandemic is disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups of the population in terms of job losses, and access to healthcare and food. Ironically, many of those are the same people who work in the food system: farm- , food- and restaurant workers, and migrant laborers, whose job security is precarious and who have limited access to sick leave and healthcare services.

As we look to re-opening the country and the world, we have the opportunity to re-create a food system that is more equitable and just for all who are a part of it because these workers are being recognized as being as critical as our healthworkers. There is an opportunity to envision and enact legislation to create a food system that is more sustainable.

While the USDA has set aside $19 billion for farmers, the bulk of those funds are going to large corporate farms, rather than on small independent farms. We should advocate for a food system in which small farms are supported, and farmers are getting paid for the true cost of the food they produce.

Currently, restaurant jobs are the eighth out of fifteen lowest paid jobs in the US and jobs in the food system as a whole rank among the lowest paid jobs (for more details see the IPES Food Report). We should champion a food system in which farmworkers, restaurant and other food service workers have access to: safe and fair working conditions; job security and are getting paid a living wage; paid sick leave and access to critical healthcare services.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Environmental Protection Agency has waived enforcement of certain environmental laws, thus putting our air and water at risk. As we look to the future, we need to ensure that environmental laws are strengthened, and we do what we can to support the health of the water, soil and air needed to sustain our food system.

One-third of all edible produce in the US does not leave the farm and gets wasted. We can try to work towards a system where we find ways to distribute all surplus food from farms, and waste less food in our own homes.

Food impacts every aspect of our lives, and, as eaters, we are a critical part of the food system. Therefore, we should consider how our actions (or lack thereof) impact the various parts of the food system. Are we supporting an industrial agricultural system that creates unsafe working conditions and harms the environment? Are we creating demand for a regional food system by supporting local farmers? Our choices today will determine what our food system looks like tomorrow.

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Cook Well

Brown Rice Bowl with Zucchini, Carrots, Cauliflower & Hard-Boiled Eggs

I’d like to share this recipe for a super easy Brown Rice Bowl from my cookbook. It’s very nutritious and a great way to use up some of the leftovers in your fridge. Serves 2

FOR THE RICE BOWL
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces*
Sea salt
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/2 small head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
  1. Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini and sauté until soft and lightly browned. Set aside.
  2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Boil the carrots until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the carrots with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Return the water in the pot to a boil and add the cauliflower. Boil the cauliflower until soft, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Divide the rice into two small bowls. Top each bowl with half the zucchini, carrots, and cauliflower, then the hard-boiled egg halves.
  5. Drizzle on some dressing and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes so the flavors meld. Serve warm or at room temperature.
FOR THE CURRY VINAIGRETTE
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, curry powder, and garlic and mix well.
  2. Add the oil and whisk until fully combined. Season with salt and pepper.

*If zucchini are not in season where you live, you can use Swiss chard, peas, or asparagus.

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Learn

Rachel’s Recommended Reading

In this monthly blog post I share with you some interesting articles that I find worth reading:

This Communiqué by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems is a must-read. I highly recommend it. READ

Check out the Environmental Working Group’s useful Guide to Eating Healthy During a Pandemic. CHECK IT OUT

The Coronavirus has negatively affected the most vulnerable workers in the food system, we need to see the future as an opportunity to do better. READ

Contact your representatives about letting people use SNAP benefits in restaurants so they can have more food options. READ

While the Coronavirus Pandemic has had a positive effect on carbon emissions, the amount of plastic we are throwing out is staggering…and also harmful for the environment. READ

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