Stories / Impact

Sustainability in the Time of COVID-19

Preserving local foodways amid a pandemic

Morgan Carter

August 07, 2020


Photo: Clay Williams

For the past few months, we've been hosting webinars as part of our Industry Support learning series. Topics have covered all facets of the current crisis, from understanding the RESTAURANTS Act, to the challenges faced by Indigenous tribes, to chefs using their voice for advocacy, and more. Last week, we spoke with activists, chefs, and farmers from across the country to learn how they are preventing their local foodways from disappearing forever. 

Melanie Brown is a fourth-generation fisherperson who works to preserve the wild sockeye salmon of Bristol Bay, Alaska. Working with the initiative SalmonState, Brown is fighting against the creation of the Pebble Mine and detrimental practices such as overfishing to create a more sustainable shore. “As humans we have this tendency to want to have dominion over nature instead of letting nature take care of us,” she explains.   

Commodity farming has become unsustainable due to the monopolization of seeds. This genetic bottlenecking of crops can spell disaster in the wake of the right pest or pathogen. Promoting biodiversity, David Shields of the University of South Carolina has helped to locate, identify, and restore a number of the region’s crops—including Bradford Watermelon, Carolina African Runner Peanut, and Purple Straw Wheat.  

Germaine Jenkins transformed a vacant lot into an urban farm and a USDA grocery store, Fresh Future Farm Inc., in Charleston, South Carolina, providing culturally relevant nutrition to her surrounding community. As the area struggles with affordable housing, gentrification, and food apartheid, Jenkins’s nonprofit provides mutual aid by hiring and paying a fair wage to working-class individuals while offering training and investment opportunities for BIPOC farmers. Though the grocery store had to temporarily close due to COVID, the farm pivoted to offer grocery delivery and a curbside market to locals. 

Through his restaurant The Shack, Ian Boden connects farmers, makers, and producers to the locals of Staunton, Virginia. By sourcing food within 100 miles of his restaurant, Boden educates his customers on what is being grown in their own backyard with each dish. In the midst of the pandemic, Boden plans to revive his concept Staunton Grocery to further expose his community to new ingredients made by local producers by way of tastings, educational seminars, and more.

Watch the full webinar for more stories and insights from these chefs.

Check out what's on-deck for our webinar series and find past recordings here. 

Our team would like to know what topics you would like us to cover. Please email us at with your suggestions on speakers, resources, and issues you would like us to host.