Dear SAFSF Network,
Like all of you, we at SAFSF are doing our best to remain both calm and vigilant as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds around us. While we are deep in preparations for our June 2020 SAFSF Forum, we are actively monitoring and assessing the situation as new information becomes available and will make a decision about how to move forward within the next 30 days. Please know that we are mindful of the health and safety of potential attendees, host organizations’ staff, service personnel, and others we will all come in contact with. We are also mindful of the economic impact our Forum decision will have on the Kansas City community.
This public health crisis already is having negative ripple effects on the sustainable agriculture and food systems community. Two of our staff members were in New Orleans this week at the National Good Food Network Conference, hearing firsthand about cancelled food hub contracts due to university and school closings; concern about farmers markets being cancelled along with other public events at a time when access to healthy, traceable food is most critical; and other disruptions that will mean widespread loss of perishable food, income, and jobs for farmers, aggregators, processors, and food businesses. Cancellation of spring events hosted by nonprofits will mean penalties and unrecoverable expenses for broken venue and catering contracts, as well as lost attendance revenue, which may be a significant element in an organization’s budget.
Philanthropy plays a critical role in providing rapid response to a disaster like this, which is likely to have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on the food and agriculture sector. Your grantees WILL be affected. They may experience economic hits like those mentioned above. Maybe they are front-line service providers facing the risks of infection without the safety net of paid sick leave or health insurance. Or perhaps the programs they provide will be disrupted due to event restrictions, leaving the populations they serve without needed services.
NOW is the time to check in with your grantees. Reach out and ask, what hits are they taking or do they anticipate? How might the delivery of their mission-critical services be threatened? Do they have the resources needed to keep their staff and constituents safe? Is telework a possibility for them, or what equipment/support would they need to make that happen? What kind of reporting accommodations or other administrative support will be needed or helpful for them to focus on weathering this crisis? Will they be able to pay their rent, make payroll, service their debt?
We encourage you to have these conversations and we also invite you to share what you are learning and doing with others. We will be making space for a coronavirus response conversation on our scheduled March 23 “In the Kitchen” call for SAFSF members. SAFSF members will receive call-in information separately. In the meantime, please send us information or resources that you feel may be relevant for others and we will establish a mechanism to share them with the network.
Finally, we know that many of you and your grantees are entering a new world of telework, whether that will be temporary or become your new normal. SAFSF’s staff and member service structure is built on working remotely. Collectively, our staff has well over 20 years of remote work experience and is well-versed in communicating and convening many online committee or ad hoc meetings each week. We would be happy to answer questions about how we keep our staff connected, and/or the resources we use that keep our work—and our community—moving in the same direction together.
In health and solidarity,
Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders (SAFSF)