I read an article in the newspaper this morning about a long-term care nurse in Washington state who doesn’t have paid sick leave because she’s classified as a private contractor. As a worker cooperative, we take a very different approach. All our staff get paid sick leave. We have expanded the amount of paid sick leave our staff can take in order to ensure that they can care for themselves and family members during this crisis. Additionally, our staff has voluntarily elected to contribute a portion of their paycheck into a “fund” to help colleagues who might be sick or quarantined for long periods of time. Sadly, it is all too common in the service industry for people to lose their jobs if they call in sick. This is a travesty and I am very proud of the fact that our staff can rest at east knowing that they will get the support they need.
In our store and on the farm, we have instituted a number of protocols to ensure that high-touch surfaces including door handles, credit-card machines, etc. are sanitized up to four times a day. We don’t have good data on how long this virus can survive on surfaces so our approach is one of abundant caution. All our staff has food-safety and food-handler training and we are constantly reminding everyone to follow good practices. In our kitchen, we are brewing up some elderberry syrup this morning using elderberries that we harvested from our farm last year and honey from our own hives. Elderberry is particularly effective at warding off colds and flus. We will be giving each of our staff members some of this tonic to take home and will also be selling it in our store.
We’ve all heard of the long lines at stores as people stock up on toilet paper! At our store, we are working with out suppliers to ensure that we have ample supplies of not just toilet paper but all sorts of other essentials. Of course, we have plenty of food! One big advantage is that the vast majority of the products we carry are sourced locally. This means short supply chains that are less likely to be disrupted in times of crisis. In other words, local sourcing equals more resilience and food security. This is a big benefit of local agriculture that often goes unmentioned in the glossy advertising. We are here to serve our community and are grateful for your support. You can rest assured that we will never ever engage in predatory pricing or other such unsavory practices that take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities and fear. If you don't want to venture out, we also offer online ordering and home delivery from our store. Like your mother probably said: “Eat your vegetables!” To mom’s advice, I would add that a balanced diet of nutritious, chemical-free, and delicious food shared with friends and family is probably the best way to stay healthy and help your immune system.
At the end of the day, this virus knows no boundaries and the only way to combat it is to come together as a community and support each other. Be well, eat well, and help your neighbors!
- Narendra Varma, Founder, Our Table Cooperative