In only a fraction of time, COVID-19 has turned our lives – and those of our beloved ones – upside down. Lock-down measures have brought a new reality to our daily routine, our interactions, the way we perceive life. Serious challenges persist (big shout out to those working around the clock and risking their lives to help society in whatever way – you are real heroes!), but opportunities to do things differently once COVID-19 has been defeated may surface.
In times of pandemic, we turn to our very basic needs: safety and physiological needs. “Food is fuel for life” is extra true these days. Beyond the provision of energy, food plays an essential social role bringing comfort, pleasure and sense of belonging to families, friends, communities – even via Skype, WhatsApp, Instagram or TikTok (indeed, physical distancing does not necessarily imply social distancing). In order to keep societies going, it is therefore paramount to keep ensuring continued availability of and access to food.
Over the past week, FoodDrinkEurope has worked hard to support our workers and businesses doing what they do best: feeding us all. There is sufficient food available across Europe, but we collectively need to work hard to sustain it, in the wake of border closures, labour challenges and closed market channels. Therefore, we have worked, and continue working, closely with the EU Institutions and other partners to call for a co-ordinated approach to ensuring food supply during COVID-19 across the EU.
Here are some key actions we have undertaken over the past days and week(s):
- We proposed 5 urgent actions to EU policy-makers to help ease supply chain pressure
- We teamed up with our social partner EFFAT (the European Federation of Trade Unions for Food, Agriculture and Tourism) to call for support for our #FoodHeroes;
- We committed, together with our main partners in the EU food supply chain Copa-Cogeca (farmers) and EuroCommerce (retailers and wholesellers), to do all in our power to ensure our food systems continue to function sustainably and effectively throughout the health crisis and the confinement measures
- We also identified challenges with regard to the free movement of food, feed, pet food, ingredients and packaging and possible solutions with our suppliers, including Copa-Cogeca (farmers) and CELCAA (traders)
- We launched an online portal to recognise the #FoodHeroes who are keeping the food supply chain running through the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the food and drink companies who are taking extraordinary measures to support the fight against COVID-19
- We are providing and calling for further guidance by authorities on occupational safety and health measures in food manufacturing establishments, to protect our valuable workers.
- We keep our members informed through our Extranet and provide information on our public website, e.g. our Q&A.
Whereas the steps taken by the European Commission over the past week and days, such as Guidelines on “Green Lanes” and on the proper movement of cross-border workers, are positive, it remains imperative that all EU Member States follow-up on these recommendations and urgently recognise the food supply chain (in its broadest definition) as essential sector, where not done so.
It is clear that there will be no “business as usual” post COVID-19. Food and drink companies, and their workers, will need full support in the years to come – not only financially but certainly also morally. Economic recovery should be turned into a strength towards more resilient and sustainable food systems.
For now: help keeping our #FoodHeroes healthy and safe. Recognise food as essential supply chain. Maintain the secured flow of anything food related. Don’t hoard. Don’t waste. Prepare for the future.