Our Best Food System Solutions Stories of 2020 | Civil Eats

Our Best Food System Solutions Stories of 2020

Even in a year as filled with challenges as 2020 has been, people are stepping up to create solutions. Here is some of our best reporting on promising food solutions.

Marlo and Anthony Paul at Eden Land Farm in Alabama's Black Belt

Marlo and Anthony Paul at Eden Land Farm in Alabama’s Black Belt.

Amidst the darkness and loss of 2020, Civil Eats has remained committed to prioritizing solutions journalism. Our stories have featured many inspiring examples of community-based solutions designed to address the systemic challenges and logjams that have been illuminated since the pandemic began. We know many of you appreciated these rays of hope, and we’re ending our publishing year by sharing our best examples of humanity. Good bye, 2020—and here’s to a better 2021!

Jennifer Taylor Educates and Advocates for Underserved Small Farms in Florida
Along with her husband, Ron Gilmore, Taylor has created a mecca in central Georgia for small-scale organic farmers.

After #MeToo, This Group Has Nearly Erased Sexual Harassment in Farm Fields
On big farms, protecting women and men from sexual violence has required a cultural shift. Our reporter spent weeks with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, documenting their effective methods of education, monitoring, and enforcement.

Restoring Food Sovereignty on the Spirit Lake Reservation
With a grocery store, traditional garden programs, and an emphasis on cooking, the northern North Dakota tribe is reviving its food system through traditional foods.

Farmers in Puerto Rico are Growing a Culture of Social Justice and Climate Resilience
After Hurricane Maria, hundreds of young farmers, many women, have established bold approaches to agriculture—and their ideas are resonating beyond the island.

people gardening in a community garden

The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now
From panic planting to cooperative gardens, farmers focused on equity and food justice know that ‘if you can feed yourself, you can free yourself.’


Community Supported Agriculture Is Surging Amid the Pandemic
People are signing up for CSAs in record numbers. Could the once-struggling model sustain small farms through hard times—and beyond?

kristyn leach explaining seed saving with her mustard plants.

Gardening is Important, But Seed Saving is Crucial
Experts say saving seeds is an important piece of the food sovereignty puzzle. Plus: Video tips to ensure next year’s crop.

Restaurants Are Transforming into Grocery Stores to Survive the Pandemic
Selling sought-after eggs, flour, and toilet paper directly to consumers has provided an ‘emergency transfusion’ for restaurants.

Flour Shortage? Amber Waves of Regional Grains to the Rescue
A grain and flour expert enthusiast says the local flour revolution is tastier, healthier, and has created more robust markets.


Vietnamese immigrant urban farmer Tham Nguyen tends vegetables at VEGGI co-op farm. Photo by Sarah Sax.

A Vietnamese Farmers’ Cooperative in New Orleans Offers a Lesson in Resilience

VEGGI Co-op has weathered Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Now, it’s facing the twin threats of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

Working with Airline Caterers, this Startup Nonprofit Has Delivered Over a Million Meals
Project Isaiah quickly made use of idle airline catering infrastructure to provide meals to hungry people in 11 cities nationwide.

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Most Farmers in the Great Plains Don’t Grow Fruits and Vegetables. The Pandemic is Changing That.
Amid massive tracts of wheat and corn destined for global markets, some farmers are planting cover crop mixes designed to be harvested by their communities.

The Farm to Food Bank Movement Aims to Rescue Small-Scale Farming and Feed the Hungry
Across the country, grassroots and regional programs are paying farmers to harvest surplus crops to meet skyrocketing demand.

Community Food Co-ops Are Thriving During the Pandemic
Compared to supermarkets with empty shelves and long lines, co-ops’ long-term focus on building resilient foodsheds is paying off.

As COVID-19 Disrupts the Industrial Meat System, Independent Processors Have a Moment to Shine
Big Meat put most small slaughterhouses out of business. Those left are demonstrating their resilience, but their limited numbers point to the need for improved infrastructure.

To Avoid Dumping Milk, Dairy Farmers Find New Market at Vermont Food Banks
In Vermont, and across New England, the dairy industry is coming together to support struggling farmers and hungry families.

Food Service Workers Are on the Brink of a Mental Health Crisis. These Efforts are Helping.
Newly unemployed and frontline food workers are struggling with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Nationwide, efforts are underway to encourage and provide mental health support.

Logan Stern, Robin Patel, Terrence Smith, Michael Adyson Strickland, and Noran Sanford (left to right) stand in the pasture they've created outside the prison yard at the Scotland Correctional Center, which was decommissioned in 2001.

Youth Are Flipping an Abandoned North Carolina Prison into a Sustainable Farm
By transforming a decaying prison into a flourishing farm, these young men are avoiding the criminal justice system—and creating a model to share.


It’s Now Legal for Home Chefs in California to Sell Meals. Will More Cities Get on Board?
Home chefs, including many newly unemployed restaurant workers, have seen a surge of business during the pandemic. A new state law could help bring their meals to many more people—if it’s adopted more widely.

The Doctor-Botanist Couple Healing a Community in the Rural South
In Alabama’s Black Belt, where COVID rates are high and hospitals are understaffed, Dr. Marlo Paul and her plant biologist husband, Anthony, are making house calls and providing free herbal remedies from their own farm.

A man hands a bag of fresh produce to a shopper as part of a produce prescription program

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Produce Prescriptions are More Important—and Popular—Than Ever.
Nationwide, programs providing chronically ill people free and discounted produce are seeing a surge of demand during the pandemic.

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New Support for Refugee Farmers Hard Hit by the Pandemic
Farming serves as a lifeline for refugees facing significant cultural, economic, and health-related barriers. These groups are working to support their livelihoods.

farmers working together cooperatively to harvest and tend to produce as part of their co-op

For Small Farms Surviving the Pandemic, Co-ops Are a Lifeline
When their buyers closed up shop, some farmers created new opportunities by collaborating with their neighbors.


Ranchers Form Co-Op to Address Meat Processing Bottleneck
Facing an absence of local slaughterhouses, the Bay Area Ranchers Cooperative is creating an alternative approach—one that will benefit their animals and communities.

Brazil’s Landless Workers Persist through Agroecology
The rural movement, up against great odds, has become a global model for greater land access and agrarian reform.

A New Native Seed Cooperative Aims to Rebuild Indigenous Foodways
The Indigenous Seed Growers Network sprouted from the pandemic, and is quickly evolving to help communities secure their own food systems for generations to come.

Since 2009, the Civil Eats editorial team has published award-winning and groundbreaking news and commentary about the American food system, and worked to make complicated, underreported stories—on climate change, the environment, social justice, animal welfare, policy, health, nutrition, and the farm bill— more accessible to a mainstream audience. Read more >

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