Tanya Garnish

And just like that, another month comes to a close. And, while I can’t speak for everyone, these past months have been exhausting. It’s not like I have been deprived of sleep or been doing any heavy lifting and honestly now my commute to work has been cut down to 15 seconds.

It’s the exhaustion that comes with the fight. We are fighting a virus, fighting for civil rights, fighting to stay sane. To pull together some semblance of normal so we don’t crumble under the weight of it all. This summer is not the pretty picture we are used to, there is a new normal in town and we all need to get to know her. But we also need to remember the things that make us happy.

How about food for thought?

Among everything else, food is on everyone’s mind. Food is our good friend, here to literally make us feel better every day. I have those nagging questions taking up space in my head. What’s for lunch? What is for dinner? And more importantly, what’s my next culinary creation? Like many of us, I have made my fair share of banana bread, cookies and a couple rounds of strawberry shortcake. I have made Chrissy Teigen’s Spicy Miso pasta and p.s. it is ridiculously spicy but also ridiculously delicious. Small plug for Chrissy Teigen…she definitely knows what’s up in the kitchen. She has delicious and easy recipes for everyone to enjoy. And no, my company doesn’t rep her, and I don’t know her from Adam, I just really like her, Ok?

Full disclosure, I am married to an extraordinary chef, so I am used to all the amazing foods just being placed in front of my face to devour. I constantly remind myself how lucky I really am. Although said chef doesn’t always like to bring his work home with him. I mean, who does? So we’ve been delving out the funds to food delivery services. We feel it’s our public duty as citizens to support all these restaurants and delivery people. It’s hit the service industry hard. Plus, who doesn’t crave a cheeseburger and a shake from our local proprietor The Cherry Cricket every once in a while? We’re here for it.

So yes, food has been the topic on everyone’s mind but it also has been a subject of contention.

As the coronavirus began to work its way into the U.S. and the life that we knew before faded with each passing day, we clung tightly to the promise of having enough food. Enough food for everyone.

Well, we all know what happened. It became a vicious cycle.

Not to harp on all the panic buyers but they left all the shelves completely empty. Not only buying all the toilet paper but all the food standards like eggs, butter, meat, milk and dare I say peanut butter. Peanut butter is my favorite, don’t be taking all the peanut butter.

Then restaurants were told to close. This created a ripple effect that food supplies couldn’t be sold, there was a shortage of buyers. Farmers couldn’t sell their products fast enough. The complicated web of the food supply chain was exposed.

Some of the big meat processing plants were plagued with the coronavirus and had to be shut down. This left many livestock farmers having to figure out what to do with the abundance of cattle, pigs and chickens. There is no room for error when it comes to livestock, animals can’t be held in pastures. Farmers would have to take extreme measures.

And then there were the millions of people that no longer have jobs because of all of this. Schools are closed and daily food programs for children are jeopardized. Food shortage in our country has always been a huge problem but now it had taken on a whole new meaning.

Food deserts (read that again) became worse than ever. If you are unfamiliar with the term “food desert”here’s what the Oxford Dictionary has to say:

food des·ert

noun

  • 1.an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food: “many poor people live in food deserts—where they have plenty of food but none of it healthy”

As you can predict, because you witnessed it with the rest of us, the unimaginable happened. It was the perfect storm, not only did grocery stores cut store hours, but they had low inventory. Plus the reduction in public transportation left a lot of people without access to healthy food options – there was no food and no easy way of getting it.

Charles Biles / Skagit Valley Herald

Yeah, heartbreaking. For some of us, hearing people’s stories and seeing those images on the news was the first time we’d heard of a food desert. We’ll forever remember what they are now.

Fred Rogers, more commonly known as, “Mr. Rogers” often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

Nailed it, Momma Rogers! “Look for the helpers.” The “helpers” of the world were coming out in force and things were taking a turn.

Volunteers from schools all over the U.S. were keeping the food programs alive. Millions of families depended on the everyday meals that schools were providing. Food programs and organizations, including  Feeding America,Save the Children and Blessings in a Backpack ramped up efforts to provide food for these children. Every community was working together to help families.

Golden State Warrior, Steph Curry and his wife Ayesha, pledged to help the Oakland Unified School District with the local food bank and provide more than a million meals to kids.

“The statistics are really staggering. At least 18,000 kids rely on at least two meals a day from the school system, so we want to make sure that we rally around everyone and ensure that these kids are not wondering where their next meal is coming from.” – Ayesha Curry

Jayde Powell, a grad student in Reno, Nevada, organized a group called Shopping Angels. The group consisted of volunteers that would grocery shop for the elderly. It went viral and now there are Shopping Angels all over the country. It also encouraged grocery stores to provide the elderly with special shopping hours.

Guy Fieri, the Food Network host, most known for “Diners, Drive-in and Dives” set up the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund  and raised over 23 million dollars (and counting) for restaurant workers who lost their jobs. He even got Bill Murray involved in a virtual Nacho Battle to raise money. Guy started calling CEOs all over the country inviting them to contribute. And it worked! Many companies including Pepsi and Netflix were some of the first to jump onboard encouraging more to join.

World Central Kitchen, a global non-profit relief organization started by renowned chef José Andrés, did their part to keep Americans fed by paying “out of work” restaurant workers to make hot meals for healthcare workers treating COVID patients. “By paying restaurants, we are helping them keep afloat and putting money back into the community through their staff and the local farms and farmworkers and purveyors they work with.” – Jason Collis, Director of Global Procurement, World Central Kitchen

There are thousands of these uplifting stories in every city and state across America. Members of the community coming together to support those in their greatest time of need. It’s the “pay it forward” mentality that has allowed us to look towards a brighter future.

So, now that we are up to speed on food’s role in the pandemic, it is time to talk about how food relates to my job as the Event Planner. Whether it’s organizing happy hours with snacks or our annual Thanksgiving company meal, food is a central piece to many of our company events. All of our company events, we love food at Blue Moon Digital.

During the holidays, we do a lot of food challenges, the Chili Cook-off, the Bake-off, the Dip-off and even an occasional Burrito-off. These challenges are a big hit and have been a holiday season staple for years! So, I came up with the “Virtual Meal-off.” This was during the height of everyone’s banana bread phase, so we had been getting crafty in the kitchen for a little bit.

The challenge was to re-create your favorite meal, send in pictures, the recipe and a little description. That’s it, it could be anything. It was amazing to see all the secretly talented chefs we have at Blue Moon. I was blown away. The company voted and the top three chefs got a prize. I put everything together in a presentation and that is how the Blue Moon Quarantine Cookbook was born. Who knew?

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” – Oscar Wilde

Food brings people together. Now more people are gathering once again at the dinner table to enjoy meals as a family. People are baking more. Finding old recipes of loved ones to recreate. People who have never cooked are wanting to learn. It has been proven that cooking can ease stress. And boy, do we need a stress reliever!

Communities are coming together to help those who need help. Neighbors are talking to each other. Homemade cookies are being delivered to doorsteps. Food is bringing cultures together. My chef hubby was given authentic Ethiopian food from a co-worker – Injera (flatbread) shiro, wassa and gomen kitfo. Everything was amazing, definitely a treat. Again, yes I am lucky.

And the late, great Anthony Bourdain (miss you lots) summed it up perfectly:

“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”

My advice – create something delicious for a friend, a family member or even a stranger. You will make someone smile. And remember to save some for yourself. Food wins, love wins, everyone wins.

We are all in this together, learning about each other through what divides us and coming together in new ways. Food bringing us closer, while 6 feet apart.