Two Elephants, One Room

We shouldn’t take lightly the lives lost to COVID-19, and its devastating effects on the global community. In contrast, the pandemic ushered in a rejuvenation for life. As we were told to “stay inside and save lives,” more people flocked to the outdoors. Families were seen biking, walking, and laughing together. Kids finally stepped away from the electronic devices to venture outside.

It seems to be etched into our DNA to gravitate towards things that make us happy.

People didn’t just rush the shelves for toilet paper. They cleared out the exercise equipment, bikes, games, toys, hardware, cookware, and art supplies. Quarantine helped us realize hidden talents for knitting, building, and cooking. Creativity was hatched. Not to mention, people healed from certain work stressors, retreated from the clamor of caffeine, and caught-up on much needed rest. Over-spenders pared-back. Vanity took a back seat to wild manes, scruffy beards, and unkempt nails. COVID forced us to detox our lives. We learned to live without the frills and embrace a more simplistic, sustainable lifestyle.

The COVID phenonmenon was Revelation.

The pandemic unmasked the need to slow down and live more consciously. But, it also unleashed centuries of trauma hidden behind the iron curtain of racism. Global protests dredged up disparities in health, housing, equality, education, income, and race deeply ingrained within our judicial and legislative branches.

In the thick of the pandemic, which didn’t go unnoticed, was the quiet resurrection of the survivalist Middle-Class. A working-stable group of innovative, divergent thinkers with intangible traits of modesty, resourcefulness, fearlessness, and determination. Working-stable individuals and families aren’t rich, live within their means, and have multiple streams of income.

Prior to COVID, the Los Angeles food space was centered on serving families, children, seniors, and individuals at-risk of hunger. The pandemic highlighted a greater need for increased food resources. Food distribution centers are free open resources for those at-risk to hunger. The keyword is at-risk.  COVID left many working-stable people at-risk to relying on food banks for additional support and to preserve resources. Food recovery and distribution programs tripled their efforts to respond to lost wages and those already living below the poverty line.

The current hunger pandemic is a multi-layered phenomenon on its own, made-up of complex subcultures. The food space is not only providing relief to low and fixed income households. The working-stable are now accessing food distribution centers to sustain themselves. However, they aren’t the only subculture utilizing the food space.

No doubt, the food space narrative has changed in response the COVID restrictions. Coronavirus fears triggered panic across the globe, pushing people to stockpile food. Those with unlimited financial resources, over-purchased and hoarded food from grocery stores and retailers, leaving shelves bare in most metropolitan cities. People resorted to food banks and pantries as other food resource alternatives.

An unintended consequence of the pandemic was increased mental health symptoms. While unproven, fewer financial resources and increased stress can indirectly impact the food space. Stress from social distancing and financial troubles triggered anxiety and depression. Both disorders are known to cause changes in appetite including stress-eating. Those living with these disorders use food as a coping mechanism to comfort themselves during traumatic events, in addition to increasing food intake to combat restlessness.

Individual COVID-19 responses are outside the control of the food space. Our focus is pulling as many food resources as possible, as we head into the second wave of the pandemic. FoodCycle LA is now serving an equivalent of 25,000 meals per week, which has risen by several thousand in the last month. Our COVID response is staying connecting to donors and allied with food distributors throughout Los Angeles County.