I Harbor a Secret Hope

Abigail R. Harris
March 19th 2020

by Abigail Harris – Executive Director, Provender Alliance

Amidst all the uncertainty with COVID-19 Pandemic right now, I harbor a secret hope. My longing is that all of this upheaval strengthens the human value placed upon quality and integrity in the food system that produces the nourishment we all eat: soil, ingredients, treatment of workers, and more, up and down the supply chain.

In this Spring Journal issue, we feature two articles from Provender’s emerging VOICES Program (Voices of Independent Integrity Creating Exceptional Success). Both focus on integrity in their fashion.

One is an impassioned article written by two people from Nature’s Path Foods. NP’s Co-founder and NP’s Organic Program manager speak clearly about the fork in the road for the Regenerative Movement and the Organic Movement. The other is from Pranarom, highlighting their standards and commitments to the highest quality that they know of as possible for essential oils.

Leading up to the recent Coronavirus Crisis, the Climate Crisis has had the attention of many in the natural products trade. Still, for most humans, “climate change” has been more conceptual than visceral.

We don’t personally see the ice caps melting (except via video feeds while scrolling through Facebook or news articles). We might know when it’s been an extra hot summer (do you have an air conditioner?), but we don’t feel the thirst in our throats when the dry tree roots require more water to quench their need.

However. This. Now.

This Coronavirus brings the realities of our interconnectedness and interdependence to the forefront. Right now, that interconnectedness is straining the production and distribution systems we currently use more than ever before. While extremely challenging, there are also a few reports of an environmental silver lining, as shown in this EarthTalk article in the Spring Journal.

Provender members are scrambling to adapt and adjust in these rapidly changing times.

  • · Retail grocery store members are doing their very best to serve the needs of their local communities, make hard decisions about hours, staffing, exposure, deliveries, special orders, quantity purchase limits, and more.
  • Closed sign for Ballard EE Cafe· Those that own and run cafés are either shifting to take-out only or closing doors altogether, without knowing if they will be in a position to reopen at a later date.
  • · Distributors are doubling down, dealing with issues on both sides of the supply chain: shipments coming in from producers, and deliveries to their retail store customers.
  • · Manufacturers are making decisions on where to direct their food production resources, where to send the product they have on hand. Smaller manufacturers and startups that use co-packers are having ingredient sourcing issues or sometimes being squeezed on production timelines, affecting their delivery schedules.

The future is unknown, with the full impact of the domino effect yet to come. But doing this together is better. It also allows us to see the benefit of our resources and the “brain trust” we share.

Last week we launched our ‘Ask and Offer’ online network for the Provender Alliance community. It provides a straightforward way to ask for and offer help, advice, connections, and experience (using a platform called Givitas). The goal is to make it easier for our community to harness the knowledge and expertise we have in our incredible network to make everyone more successful.

Let’s reach out and support each other in these challenging times. We can know that our care for others is the invisible thread that weaves our us together closer than ever before.