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We Are Essential: Providing Essential Nourishment

by Laetitia Benador |

“We Are Essential” is a blog series that explores how the organic community is navigating the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our farms, ranches, and businesses deliver truly essential services, staying open and in the field to provide nutritious food to our communities. Each week, we will share a new story that highlights how organic is critical to the global response. We welcome hearing how you are impacted and invite you to email us at policy@ccof.orgWe also have a list of crisis resilience resources to help you weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” 

Two thousand years since Hippocrates’ words, modern science has demonstrated that eating well is crucial to leading a healthy life. Today, coronavirus (COVID-19) has turned the world’s attention to the food system, from barren grocery store aisles to forced closures of large meat processing plants.

Under these challenging new circumstances, organic farmers and businesses are working harder than ever to bring nourishment from farms to our doorsteps. “Is there risk? Probably. But we can’t just hole up. Americans need nutritious foods and we are the producer of that,” says Vernon Peterson of Peterson Family Farms, who grows organic fruits and raises organic chickens in Kingsburg, California. “The nutritional benefits of organic foods are critical right now. We want foods that support our health and do not compromise it,” explains Peterson.

On the other end of the agricultural supply chain, Cathryn Couch, CEO of the Ceres Community Project, leads a non-profit that cooks and delivers organic meals to critically ill people in Marin and Sonoma Counties. “The people we serve—those who are medically fragile, poor, and mostly without family or caregiver support—are most at risk for complications and even death from COVID-19. It’s vital that they stay home and stay safe right now,” explains Couch. Despite having to shift from a volunteer-based model to fully-paid kitchen staff, Ceres has more than doubled deliveries of prepared organic meals since the Bay Area’s shelter -in-place order went into effect. “For our patients—all of whom live with serious health challenges—every bite has to count. That’s one of the many reasons we’re committed to 100 percent organic,” Couch explains. “The research shows that when patients have enough healthy food, they’re much more likely to stay out of the hospital and emergency department, which is so important right now to protect precious health care resources.” 

From home delivery down to the soil, the organic sector is key to our health during this pandemic. By building healthy soils rife with diverse soil organisms, organic farmers grow crops that contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and produce meat and dairy with healthier fat profiles. In addition, by eating certified organic processed products, eaters avoid 3,000 artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives that can cause adverse health outcomes, ranging from cancer to reproductive disorders.

“I’m really proud to be part of this community: the getting-things-done-community that is keeping America fed. I’m really proud that we’re out here working so that the rest can shelter,” declares Peterson. 

Thank you to Peterson, Couch, and the countless essential workers striving to nourish our families during this health crisis.