It’s been five long months since we last met on this page. During the early weeks of the pandemic shutdowns, it was hard to see how to continue making a magazine. Would our stories be relevant? Would our advertisers—who provide 99% of our operating funds—remain in business? How would readers find their free copies? There were no answers, so we turned our attention instead toward finding ways to be helpful via our e-newsletter, social media, and website.
When the state’s shelter-in-place order landed in mid-March, Bay Area residents were suddenly looking for safe, healthy food. How could we help? A new set of guides on our website called #SUPPORTLOCAL Resources now includes, among other things, updated farmers’ market information and a more robust version of our four-year-old CSA guide (now renamed Farm-Direct Food and CSA), all refreshed as new information gets to us. To meet increased interest in cooking and gardening, we provided more recipes and gardening stories. Joshua Burman Thayer’s post in our newsletter’s Gardener’s Notebook on planting avocado trees registered 18k hits in a week, reaching people as far away as India, Australia, and South Africa.
Back in February, when we started work on this summer issue, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day was on the horizon. Minds were trained on how global action might still slow the advance of climate change, and two of our contributors were signed up to cover a mid-March climate summit in Berkeley. Since food waste is known as a large contributor to greenhouse gases, summit attendees would be touring the Berkeley Food Network (BFN) to see how their volunteers collect and redirect excess food from local businesses and farms to address persistent hunger, which often lurks unseen in the community. The summit was abruptly cancelled with the Covid-19 shutdowns, and BFN, like food relief organizations everywhere, went into high gear to address needs that were suddenly visible to all.
We never got back on top of that story, but we feel fortunate that another of our contributors had already completed interviews and photography for this issue’s feature on Dig Deep Farms, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office’s food security and economic opportunity project in the unincorporated communities of Ashland and Cherryland. For a decade, the farms have provided training and employment for formerly incarcerated individuals interested in learning about regenerative farming by growing food to support their neighbors. The project had just expanded with the January opening of the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub, a commercial kitchen where novice entrepreneurs can produce healthy food products and learn how to market them. When the shutdown began, that food hub became yet another Covid food relief distribution center, and it was late May before we could reach anyone who could spare a minute to provide updates for the story you’ll find here.
Change on top of change arrived on Memorial Day as issues of systemic racial, historical, and environmental injustice came into high relief after the murder of George Floyd. That tragedy has now sparked a long overdue uprising that raises hope for lasting change to address the inequities that extend across our land and through all our systems. The way forward is one step at a time, as we are now reminded.
In the East Bay, we are blessed with a community in which listening and learning are possible and where diversity is appreciated at our daily tables. How do we let that nourishment give us strength to meet all the many challenges ahead? It’s step by step, and Edible East Bay hopes to walk that walk and keep publishing to be a part of it.
Please stay safe and know that this magazine exists for you. We hope you will get in touch whenever you feel so inclined and that you will tell us your story.
Cheryl Angelina Koehler