After the pandemic: The “old normal”, or something better?

Time for Change sign (via Pixabay/Gerd Altmann)The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis of shocking proportion.

The virus has killed more Americans in three months than all the names inscribed on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. We eagerly yearn for a return to normal, even as we picture what “a new normal” might require.

A dark past

Back in November, before anyone new that the novel coronavirus existed, 147,000 of our neighbors in Allegheny County were relying on food stamps to keep food on the table.

Large swaths of our community – primarily people of color – faced enormous barriers getting to a store where they could shop for healthy fresh food.

People were struggling daily with low-wage jobs, skyrocketing rents, inadequate mass transit, and poor access to healthcare.

Republican leaders in the State Legislature were blocking consideration of a bill to restore even a tiny payment of Emergency Relief to indigent people.

The Trump Administration was moving rapidly to cut food stamps for millions of people through a series of regulatory actions, ignoring public will and the clear legislative intent of Congress. It had also, in league with Republican Senate leaders, given huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires at the expense of domestic programs.

A brighter future

As we look towards what the future might be in the wake of the current pandemic, let’s remember that our goal should not be a return to the past. The crisis gives us a rare chance to reflect not merely on what we have lost, but on what we, as a society, should have — what every individual deserves.

We should have full employment and living wages and an end to widespread hunger. We should have dignity for all people regardless of the circumstances of their birth. And we should have a democracy that values everyone’s vote and everyone’s voice.

This is the vision Just Harvest aims to achieve.

What we can do now

There is hope to be found amidst the dark anxiety of the pandemic. All of us have been asked to make sacrifices in recent weeks. Perhaps these sacrifices will awaken a new empathy for those whose struggles are more difficult than our own. Or perhaps these sacrifices will embitter us and arouse a search for some enemy to blame. Perhaps we will remember that we wear masks not merely to protect ourselves, but to protect the neighbors and strangers we encounter every day. Or perhaps we will only remember our own needs and desires.

Perhaps we will strive together for the brighter future we all deserve. Or perhaps we will return to old mindsets and habits and stereotypes.

The choice is up to each of us.

We hope that you will join us at Just Harvest in seizing this opportunity to create a new normal – one that sustains and nourishes everyone, and where nobody must struggle to survive.

Please take action with your voice and your support to move us towards that vision today.

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