Edible Monterey Bay

Ten Ways You Can Help the Local Foodshed Survive

March 20, 2020 – First responders—and anyone who’s paid attention to the safety briefing on a plane—have the rule ingrained on their subconscious: Before you can take care of anyone else, take care of yourself, otherwise you might just make everything worse. 

In the context of the coronavirus that means self-care. For this list, which highlights ways locals can help the Monterey Bay food, drink and hospitality community as they bear much of the economic fallout in a tourism- and ag-dominated region, that’s item number one: Take care of you. If you’re sick, take lots of time to get better. If you’re symptomatic, call your doctor. If you’re anxious, stock up on sleep, exercise, good nutrition, and video calls—and, please embrace rampant and accessible mental health resources. If you’re hyper-vigilant on hygiene, keep it it up. You’re helping yourself and everyone else—and we are all in this together.

Amid plenty of scary news, here are some of the ways you can help:

1. Keep eating (inside) out

A surprising number of restaurants remain open for delivery and curbside pick up. It helps their bottom line if you call the restaurant directly rather than going through the delivery services that saddle them with commissions. To streamline the process, Edible has developed a super-handy and ever-evolving map of the bay and places to get pickup and delivery. Another convenient resource: a local catch shopping guide during COVID-19 from the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust. Buen provecho. 

2. Crack a can

Local operations like Alvarado Street Brewery have furloughed scores of workers and shifted to a skeleton crew to continue producing beer. Even as ASB director J.C. Hill anticipated a slowdown enough to send out communication to his team two weeks ago (and offer sick pay cashouts), he sounds crushed that he had to send so many workers home, albeit grateful to have a wholesale operation to keep reduced business going. He adds that California Craft Brewers Association has been fundamental to helping web-averse brewers set up online beer sales smoothly and legally. On the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order last night, ASB is currently discontinuing its popular beer and food to-go program. And after internal discussions, ASB decided to discontinue all operations, including web-based deliveries for the time being, with plans to reevaluate the situation weekly.

3. Tip your bartender 

Liquor.com has assembled a reference hub of resources for bartenders and food service workers during COVID-19 closures, helping streamline the donations and applications for assistance and general tips for good practices. Some programs are regional, but a good portion are national. For instance, the USBG Bartender Emergency Assistance Program is offering grants to bartenders affected by the virus (USBG non-members are also eligible). Meanwhile, One Fair Wage has launched an Emergency Fund to provide immediate assistance to restaurant employees. Plus Liquor.com adds this timely reminder: Many workers may qualify for unemployment benefits. 

4. Take it to the bank

The Monterey Bay area rivals the widest income disparities, top to bottom, in the country. Food Bank for Monterey County, which stretches far north and deep south county, helps bridge that gap. As demand has spiked, its dedicated staff is hustling 110 percent to keep up—while food reserves dip. Money is the most immediate form of aid, via foodbankformontereycounty.org/, though restaurants can drop surpluses by the Salinas headquarters. Downtown Dining’s restaurant group did so today, with two cars stuffed with various cheeses, 10 different types of produce, sourdough loaves and a bunch more. Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County is another worthwhile place to donate and it is asking anyone who needs nourishment to call the Community Food Hotline at (831) 662-0991 as it sets up more distribution sites at local schools. Meanwhile, Meals on Wheels—who like the Food Bank depends on elderly volunteers now hard to come by—is eager to enlist new delivery drivers. Sign up here.

5. Raise a toast to hope

Area winemakers, some of the state’s finest, and the vast majority of them family-owned, are not stopping anytime soon—partly because they’re naturally familiar with social isolation and exacting cleanliness protocols. At the same time, many tasting rooms are open as pickup spots and a surprising number of wineries are doing local deliveries. Read our round-up by Laura Ness here. Meanwhile trade groups like Monterey County Vintners and Growers are planning special wine trail bundle deals, special online auctions and ramping up sibling foundation work for people who need help. Also on the way: virtual tastings via Facebook Live and YouTube. “This week is crisis, figuring out where we are,” MCVG chief Kim Stemler says. “Next week is get-into-gear, putting together opportunities to engage the community with social distancing in mind.” Let’s drink to human health.

6. Hold farmworkers—and farmers markets—in your heart

As the sharp “Thinly Sliced” food journalism website reports, “Health care workers in rural communities are doubling down on farmworker outreach, in an effort to slow the disease’s spread among some of the country’s most at-risk populations.” The good news, in this case: They’re often isolated. The bad: They frequently have pre-existing conditions, limited healthcare resources and even more limited sick leave. Due to ongoing crisis conference calls, the Monterey County Farm Bureau wasn’t able to reply by our deadline, but any updates will be passed along via EMB’s social media and through further reporting. Meanwhile, farmers markets are deemed essential services and many markets remain open, including: Cabrillo College (Saturdays), Westside Santa Cruz (Saturdays), Oldtown Salinas (Saturdays), Marina (Sundays), Live Oak Santa Cruz (Sundays), Mid-Carmel Valley (Sundays), Pacific Grove (Mondays) and Downtown Santa Cruz (Wednesdays). Farms with CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) outfits continue to deliver (see Edible’s Monterey Bay list of CSAs for more).  

7. Track offers and updates

With haunting updates coming constantly, information fatigue is real. One great antidote: Uplifting and empowering updates from Edible contributors like Editor-Publisher Deborah Luhrman, contributor Raúl Nava and me, Mark C. Anderson. Recent notes include a slew of hours-and-availability intel from Nava and word on special pork packs available for pickup at Baker’s Bacon in Marina. Follow @OffTheMenu831, @MontereyMCA and @EdibleMontereyBay for timely tastes.

8. Feel your power

Readers have the juice to advocate for a restaurant bailout. There are a few Change.org petitions circulating now, but a more effective angle would be reaching out to representatives and senators—via letters, emails and direct tweets—to push for government action. Going forward, the crisis also highlights the need for more progressive paid sick leave policies and other permanent worker protections.

9. Believe in the Deamer

Chef Deamer Dunn was traveling in Asia as recently as last month, traversing parts of mainland China. After extended experience as an Oldtown Salinas trailblazer (famously with downtown institution Pajaro Street Bar and Grill), he qualifies as a germ and food safety expert. After seeing what more proactive countries were doing in the East—and taking pains to stay germ-free close to the epicenter of the outbreak—he was advocating for Hong Kong-style touchless temperature checks at the doors of buildings a week before Trump said we’d wipe out the disease in no time. In a special double-down addendum to this 10-part rundown, he offers his own “Top Ten Ways to Assist Your CoVid-19 Community” below.

10. Pace yourself. (It’s early-early days.) Be kind.

If there was no other takeaway for readers in this piece, one would be enough: We are experiencing just the very, very, very beginning of the consequences of the outbreak here. To bastardize a timeless saying, the journey of a thousand miles begins with simple steps. Wise humans estimate the effects will resonate indefinitely, in ways the Great Depression has, though in a more global and personal manner. “This is life-changing, 100-percent,” J.C. Hill says. “What do things look like in two months? Whatever the case, we will have to approach life and business differently, restructure, and forge on with resources we have left.” Across decades of a food career supporting disaster aid and pioneering food policy, AQUATERRA owner-operator Dory Ford has seen it all—just not anything like this. “This isn’t like a fire or hurricane or other weather [or] earthly event,” he writes by text. “That’s why everyone bought toilet paper and water, it’s what you do in a disaster. This is different. This is a complete mind shift.” He continues: “The best thing to do is to do what you’re told, [namely] be a good neighbor. If you know someone at risk or just alone and freaked out, ask how you can help. Society is about to go through a dramatic shift on all levels. Now is really a time to practice being kind and concerned for your fellow man.”

SPECIAL CHEF REPORT: Deamer’s Top Ten Ways to Assist Your COVID-19 Community

1. Social Distancing and Awareness: Clean hands and master the habit of knowing what and when you touch. Above all, be aware of any fever. No touch temperature reading devices were located throughout Macau and Hong Kong, an opportunistic approach seemingly not adopted in America. 

2. Stay Healthy: Be aware & boost your immune system with sleep, exercise and a quality diet. The big three reinforce each other, and this is a great opportunity to improve these aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Walking, keeping social distance, is still encouraged, by virtually all shutdown communities this side of Wuhan. 

3. Pay It Forward: There’s no better time to recognize those in the service industry who make your life better. Purchase gift certificates, pay in advance for future service, pass on a retro/forward thank you with a cash tip.

4. Order via Phone and Internet: Rather than giving all your Internet business to Amazon, call or visit you favorite local shops and restaurants websites.

5. Don’t hoard. Let me say this again, don’t hoard. 

6. Don’t watch too much TV. That was DO NOT.

7. Offer to assist a neighbor/friend with errands, particularly the vulnerable. One person for two to the drug store, beats two to the store for one item! During Wuhan’s Lockdown, each family had to designate just one member of the family to do all the shopping—the same one for the entire shutdown.

8. Share Child Care: This may require some special arrangements to keep it safe, but could offer a solution under these conditions.

9. THINK: What a great time to reevaluate our lifestyle choices, our green impact—a great time for some gardening, including preparing a food garden. 

10. READ: Those granted extra time at home, whether by choice or not, this is that chance you have always wished for reading. Whether fiction or nonfiction, a better-read community is a better community. As an Author, I can say that not only would your favorite, local bookstore love to receive a call, discuss your desire, order and/or ship you a book, virtually all of them can get you any book that is on Amazon and then ship or deliver it to you, such as Downtown Book & Sound (831-477-6700) and Bookshop Santa Cruz. The overall idea is that this is a time to think and support local.