March 16th Statement on Coronavirus | Community Solidarity

Community Solidarity's Response to the Coronavirus March 16th

Yes, Community Solidarity Food Shares are continuing, and will continue for as long as we can.

It’s time for a very frank and honest conversation. Like many of you, I’ve been juggling our collective social responsibility to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while also supporting the communities that depend on our food share locations. It’s not just about people’s need for groceries, it’s about the network of support we offer thousands.

There’s an undeniable reality that as the coronavirus pandemic gets worse, we will see more and more members of our community sickened. We will also see more and more of them out of work and in deeper economic hardship.

This is a reality that we’re already seeing food share locations, since people coming to us for food has nearly doubled over the past week. And yet we’re also confronting the reality that those increased numbers create increased danger to the community at large.  

This is a juggling act that has been keeping us up at night for weeks now.

The beauty of Community Solidarity Food Shares wasn’t just the thousands of people who got free plant-based groceries, it was hundreds of people coming together helping one another out.

But since the onset of this pandemic those crowds have become a danger to everyone in our community. So, what do we do?

In order to keep going, and in order to protect the most vulnerable in our community, radical change is necessary.

Below is a short summary of our current plan. I say current plan because this situation is very fluid. Things will likely change, and we’ll be announcing all changes here.

Please know that the decision to continue our services was not taken lightly. Weighing peoples need for food against the risk of adding to community spread of a virus that endangers the lives of many in our community is a horrible decision to make.

Personally, I was torn on what the right thing to do was. Then, the other day, I was at a supermarket, and like many of you have already experienced, I saw these huge crowds crammed into tight spaces. Crowds of hundreds of shoppers stuck in line for 20-30 minutes waiting to pay for groceries and in that moment, it was clear.

All our food share locations are running much safer than any supermarket. Our volunteers have more protective gear than any grocery store employee I’ve seen. And community members coming for food are at much lower risk than any shopper at any store since we’re actually able to enforce social distancing.

Now, with that said there may come a time when supermarkets have to close and at that time we’ll likely have to close, but we’re not there yet. And for as long as we can, we will do our best to help others.

A quick summary of our current plan:

Please note: a more detailed summary, along with updated information for each food share locations can be found here.

So, for starters, over the past few weeks we’ve been converting all our food share locations to one single file line to limit interpersonal exposure.

NYS just outlawed gathers of 50 or more people, and while essential services (which include our food shares) are except from this regulation - we still fully intend to adhere to the policy. We also expect future limitations to come in the days and weeks to come – and we will adapt as necessary.

Going forward, we will be limiting all shares to 20 volunteers. Volunteer slots will be filled in a first-come basis. We also highly advise anyone over the age of 50 to refrain from volunteering since the risk factor for those 50+ is much greater.

For the past few weeks we’ve been providing safety gear and sanitizing materials to all volunteers and we will continue to do this for as long as necessary.

To reduce our crowd sizes, we have created time slots for community members coming for food. These timeslots will be by age. 80+ year older community members will be served first, followed by 70+, then 60+, etc… you can find more information about those time slots and how they relate to your local food share location here.

All community members are already required to stand 6 feet apart, and if at any point there are more than 10 people online for food, we will create additional lines 30 feet apart from one another.

Pre-made boxes of food will be available for drive through pickup for anyone who doesn’t want to risk standing online for food. Volunteers can place these boxes directly into a vehicle’s trunk to reduce exposure.

Our goal is to encourage as many people as possible to switch to premade boxes of groceries and if necessary, we may switch exclusively to serving only premade boxes in the future.   

Finally, the safety of everyone in our community is paramount. Over the coming days and weeks, the situation on the ground will get much worse. If we have to suspend our distributions or adjust our services, we will be announcing that here.

Closing thoughts on the days, and months, to come - and how you can help.

There is no doubt that our most challenging days are just starting. We’ve made it through Hurricanes Irene & Sandy, we made it through the Great Recession, and we will make it through this – but do not be fooled, these may very well be the most challenging weeks of our lives. Not only are we confronted with a deadly pandemic that threatens our communities and loved ones. We’re also confronted with the economic devastation that will be left in its fallout.

Everyone in our community will be affected by this disaster and the need to support one another in these trying times will be greater than ever.

Simply put, the need for Community Solidarity has never been greater.

If you are under 50, and able to help volunteer, we need you! And you can sign up here. If you are able to make a one-time donation, or become a monthly supporter, your support has never been more needed!

If you have protective gloves, face masks, bleach or other cleaning supplies that you can donate we desperately need them.

Over the coming days we’ll be announcing new tools and resources that we can all use to help one another out.

We understand that many of you are unable to join us at distributions. Our goal is to find new and creative ways you can help from at home.

So, this is where we are.

We wish you, your family, your loved ones and your community well. Please stay healthy, and safe, in these trying times. We love you all. We will be here for you all, in any way we can.

With Love & Solidarity,

Jon Stepanian & your family at Community Solidarity