Report from Atlanta, Georgia on the growth of survival programs and why they are so needed in the current moment of the spreading coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 is a natural threat, but the crisis we’re all facing is political and economic. Even if we avoid contracting the virus, we can’t “self isolate” from our bills. Social distancing doesn’t put food on the table or keep a roof over our heads.
— Food4Life (@Food4LifeAtl) April 3, 2020
We started Atlanta Survival Programs in a rush, as COVID-19 started taking off. It was clear that the government wouldn’t respond, too concerned with protecting business profits to take the threat seriously. It was clear that there would be a huge increase in food insecurity, as grocery stores empty of food and most people’s wallets empty of funds. Knowing that no help was coming from the rich and powerful, we responded by looking to the people and resources around us, and getting organized.
Two weeks later, more than 10,000lbs of free groceries have been delivered to the homes of people in need. Hundreds of people have responded to the call to help, forming a large scale, highly effective operation almost overnight. It’s growing by the day.
This is an amazing achievement, but it’s not nearly enough.
The fact is, capitalism has left our communities hollowed out, brittle, on the edge of collapse for a long time now. Everyone is desperate. Trump talks about getting the country back to normal, but there’s no normal to return to. No job, no childcare, no health insurance, growing debt, soaring rent: this is the status quo many have been barely surviving under for years – and that’s without a pandemic-fueled recession. If we return to normal, it will destroy us. We need to create a different world to return to.
— SR (@falcon_0_4) March 28, 2020
Right now, while everything is on pause, we have a chance to build that world. Instead of going to work, a hundred of us spent the past two weeks figuring out how to get food to those who need it. Some have begun organizing with their neighbors to go on rent strike, or to open up abandoned houses to get homeless people a safe place off the streets. Out-of-work engineers are collaborating over video conference, working around the clock to design DIY medical care tools. Farmers are preparing new land to grow free food this spring.
The lesson is clear: When the economy stops, we keep going – and we’re actually more capable of caring for each other without it.
The Atlanta Survival Programs are a crisis response, but they’re not a short term measure, because the crisis isn’t over until survival is possible for everyone.