Updated: May 13, 2021
As I'm sure we're all aware, during the Covid pandemic grocery workers have been considered "essential" as they have been risking their lives at work (often with few if any safety precautions) to ensure that the rest of us remain fed. It's been said that "every society is three meals away from chaos". When viewed in that light, their work is absolutely essential. And yet when various local governments chose to grant hazard pay to those essential workers putting their lives and the lives of those close to them on the line to prevent the aforementioned chaos, supermarket chains such as Kroger opted to close multiple stores rather than give their workers the extra pay. Given the stakes at play, those workers had, at least in my opinion, earned that money many times over. Yet the company would rather shutter entire locations than reduce the profit margins they apparently believe themselves entitled to. One factor that never seems to be considered in the conversation is the impact on the people in those communities who may not have access to other sources of food, and therein lies the rub.
Look, I'm a business school grad, not a bright eyed idealist of any stripe. I understand that companies have a fiduciary obligation to maximize profits for shareholders. Having said that, I have to wonder why anybody who is aware of that dynamic would willingly allow themselves to be completely dependent on an organization that clearly does not prioritize their basic survival needs as part of the decision making process. I still shop at Kroger for items I cannot get from local vendors, and I am not suggesting a boycott or anything of the sort (although I would not be opposed either, how we spend money and how we sell our labor is really the only influence most of us have). My point is that when times are tough and our need is greatest, we absolutely cannot depend on profit maximizing entities to deliver even the most basic of our survival needs. So what is the alternative?
The answer to that question will vary from community to community, but there is a common thread that I believe is relevant in most, if not all, cases. That is the fact that at the end of the day, we must rely on ourselves and each other to ensure we have enough to eat. It has been made abundantly clear that "our" government lacks the will and unity of purpose to act decisively in order to keep us alive, and those in the business of maximizing profit will only do so on terms they dictate that benefit themselves at our expense and cannot be relied upon to continue participating in the community otherwise. So where does that leave us? Well for starters I recommend we take a hard look at the assets we have that we may not fully appreciate. First among them is the ubiquitous lawn. Most communities have access to a considerable area of reasonably flat arable land that is currently being wasted on something with absolutely no utility value. While I appreciate the aesthetic and like walking barefoot on fresh cut grass at least as much as the next person, I'd rather have a measure of food security. So let's reassess the potential value of our lawns (and parks, and golf courses, and rooftops, and....you get the idea). Just some food for thought.
Go farm a lawn,