Craig Morris , March 18, 2020

The Power of Food to Comfort and Calm: Musings on COVID-19

It seems the world is facing an unprecedented global situation, and we may be facing it for a while. Proverbially speaking, we’re all in the same boat and crisis is the great equalizer. While many of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still remain to be seen, I think we’ve all seen our friends, colleagues and families be reminded of what’s truly important: our basic human needs of food, water, shelter, human contact and compassion.

Representing the Wild Alaska Pollock industry and growing up in agriculture, I’ve been starkly reminded these past several days and weeks of the importance of our food producers. Our fishermen, farmers, ranchers and allied industry cannot take a break; we can’t afford for them to go down. We have too many mouths to feed, day in and day out, in this country and I know our industry like so many others are working tirelessly to take every precaution to ensure we can keep harvesting fish and providing it to hungry families across the U.S., and the world.

The current situation has also called into sharp focus just how many of our brethren face food insecurity every day. It’s frankly heartbreaking to see just how many school aged children are completely dependent on school breakfast and lunch to meet their daily needs. Yet, through it all, there have been bright spots—communities binding together to donate food, cook meals for schools to provide to children that may otherwise go hungry, neighborhoods putting up Christmas lights or breaking into song out windows to spread joy and lift spirits. The American spirit, it seems, is never stronger than when we’re down and out. We’ve always been a “pull yourself up from the bootstraps” kind of nation.

Through all of the uncertainty, one thing for me has remained constant: the ability of food to comfort, to unify, to calm our fears in times of crisis. I’ve watched on social media as people have swapped recipes, posted pictures of home-cooked meals and shared tips for grocery shopping and stocking up on pantry staples. We’re seeing people take the time at home with their children as an opportunity to get kids in the kitchen. We’re seeing people stress bake (a new trend!) and tap into their inner chef-foodie, creating new recipes with limited ingredients. We’re seeing people bond over food—making the same recipes at the same time with their loved ones near and far or holding online competitions a-la “Top Chef” to compete over the best creation featuring the same ingredients.

Many companies (GAPP included) are watching this situation unfold and re-evaluating their communications. We certainly don’t want to be sharing anything that could be perceived as out-of-touch with the current recommendations around social distancing and the like. But, it dawned on me that we as an industry have a huge opportunity to bond with our consumers in meaningful ways, right now. Every crisis can be an opportunity and this one is no different.

Here’s what we know: people are (quite literally) hungry for distraction. They’re craving good news. They’re looking for helpful hints and tips. They’re looking to feed their families, at home, for multiple meals. They’re looking to have some fun—with food and otherwise—during these trying times.

Wild Alaska Pollock, and seafood overall, can capitalize on all of those desires. Let’s band together and give them the recipes they’re seeking. Let’s push forward our cooking demonstrations. Let’s focus on pantry staples and freezer meals and on meals that bring everyone around the table and get the kiddos involved. And let’s have some fun.

We have captive audiences right now—so let’s also look for ways to talk about our fishermen and their dedication to feeding us all. Let’s share their stories and talk about our fishery with compelling imagery. Have some ideas on how to do this? Let us know—we’re all ears.

The days and weeks ahead are uncertain, but for today, we can focus on the now. We can count our blessings and look for ways to connect remotely. I think this situation has reminded us all of what’s important and will continue to do so. We’ll have to work harder to connect, to overcome the barriers of time and space and interact in new, but equally meaningful, ways. Connecting over food: cooking, sharing a meal together, swapping recipes, digging out cookbooks and the like are all ways we can connect and comfort those around us.

Food sustains our bodies and our souls and that, now more than ever is just as important. Thank you to our fishermen who continue to provide for us all, no matter the circumstances. We are all in this together—separate, but more united perhaps than ever before. That’s what we do, as a country: come together when it matters most.

Here’s to staying healthy, happy and finding ways to nourish one another, in every sense of the word, in the coming days. 

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