Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
The workers who deliver your food are hungry
FERN and Mother Jones
“Demand for couriers [for meal-delivery apps] grew during the pandemic, yet their conditions only deteriorated,” writes Karina Piser. “Lockdowns cut into their hours, leaving many workers struggling to pay bills and feed families. Eighty percent of gig workers surveyed in the summer of 2020 by the University of California, Los Angeles, Labor Center said they weren’t making enough to meet household expenses. A third did not have enough for groceries. Because most app-based food delivery companies classify workers as independent contractors, not employees, the workers lacked critical labor protections and benefits during an unstable time, even struggling to qualify for SNAP.”
“In the summer of 2020, the oyster fishery closed in Apalachicola Bay. By December, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had banned all harvesting for at least five years. Something was happening to the oyster—nobody knew exactly what, although lots of people had ideas,” writes Janisse Ray. “To understand how shattering the announcement was, scrape a kayak into Indian Pass when the bay is peaceful and paddle a quarter mile across to St. Vincent. Step onto the beach, pull your boat out of reach of high tide, and start walking. You’ll come to long swales of ancient oyster shells—middens—discarded by native communities as many as four thousand years ago.”
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“It’s April, 2020; we’re in Early Pandemic, though we don’t know that yet. We’re still canceling dinner plans and telling friends, ‘No worries, we’ll have you over in July.’ My partner, Marguerite, and I—the youngest females in our families—have by default become kitchen archivists,” writes Pamela Petro. “Our siblings either lived too far away or declined interest in recipe books when we dismantled our parents’ houses … We’ve decided to cook and bake our way back in time.”
“As the pre-Covid restaurant became, like many other social institutions, a tool for economic dominion, resistance was gathering,” writes Aaron Timms. “The food-security and food-justice movements gained strength … pointing the way to another path for the restaurant once the pandemic passes. During these long, strange months of the city’s somnambulism, one of the few joys, for me at least, has come from helping out as an occasional line cook at various pop-ups run out of semi-resuscitated bars and restaurants around Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. What these exercises in culinary improvisation have taught me is that food still has the power to knit communities together, but only if the institutions delivering it have a stake in the local outcome—if the aid between restaurants and the people they host really is mutual, anchored in a hospitality whose highest calling is always the duty of reciprocity.”
“Americans tend to drink in more dysfunctional ways than people in other societies, only to become judgmental about nearly any drinking at all. Again and again, an era of overindulgence begets an era of renunciation: Binge, abstain. Binge, abstain,” writes Kate Julian. “Right now we are lurching into another of our periodic crises over drinking, and both tendencies are on display at once. Since the turn of the millennium, alcohol consumption has risen steadily … Media coverage, meanwhile, has swung from cheerfully overselling the (now disputed) health benefits of wine to screeching that no amount of alcohol is safe, ever.”