It’s been over two weeks since the World Health Organization officially characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic, and a little over a month since the first registered contagion in the Netherlands. The full impact of the pandemic is anyone’s guess at this point. But in the past weeks, we’ve seen that many people and businesses in the Dutch Slow Food network already have taken a hard hit.
Since March 15th all cafés and restaurants in the Netherlands have been ordered to close their doors except for take-out, a measure that will last at least until April 28th, and many believe the government will prolong this mandate. Needless to say, this has caused huge uncertainty among farmers, food producers, restaurant owners and anyone trying to make a living in the food industry. The Dutch Agricultural and Horticultural Organization already expects close to 5 billion euros in damage for the Dutch agricultural sector in the coming six months from the corona crisis, based on expected turnover losses. Last week’s reports showed the first restaurant owners declaring bankruptcy, at least in part due to the current crisis.
Slow Food Chefs Alliance
“We’re seeing a domino effect in the ecosystem of the restaurant industry, affecting not only the restaurants, but also many of their suppliers. And that is no less visible with Slow Food minded businesses’, says Guus Thijssen, one of the coordinators of the Slow Food Chefs Alliance in the Netherlands. ‘Restaurants in the Chef’s Alliance are often very closely linked to specific small producers with rare, heritage products. Now that demand from the restaurants has suddenly dropped, it immediately creates surpluses for these producers that they can’t easily sell elsewhere.’
This amount of dark clouds has had people searching for a silver lining, and luckily there are more than a few. The upside of this crisis is that it has shown the resilience, solidarity and creativity of many individuals in the network worldwide, and no less so in the Netherlands.
To give one example, a group of Amsterdam based food producers has started a campaign under the name #SupportYourLocalsNL, calling on consumers to keep on supporting their favorite local farmers and restaurants, and encouraging food entrepreneurs to work together and create home-delivered local food boxes to be ordered online by supportive customers. So far over ten such local initiatives have sprung up across the country in places like Rotterdam, Utrecht, Deventer, and Eindhoven.
Slow Food does its part by making initiatives like these visible online, so every person willing to support a local farmer or restaurant can easily find which ones are close by, and how to support them. Through a quick bit of improvisation and a few long nights, on Thursday the 19th of March the page Kies Lokaal (Choose Local) was launched. The page contains addresses in all twelve provinces in the Netherlands, and allows people to nominate their own (favorite) businesses to be added on. So far, the list contains over 300 farms and restaurants, with about 50 new ones being added each day.
‘Being on this list has helped us.’, says Evrim Kurç, owner of restaurant and catering business De Bio Basis in Zeist. ‘Two weeks ago we had to close the restaurant, and then one by one all outstanding catering jobs were canceled. We immediately switched to a meal delivery service, and we have multiple customers every week that found us through Slow Food. That helps us, and the farmers we work with. We’re working a bit more than we already did. I don’t think that this is something that we’d be able to maintain in the long run. But for now, I’m very grateful that I’m still able to provide good and healthy meals to people, and to keep working together with the network that we’ve invested so much energy in the years up till now. This is a time when I really feel the power of local communities.’
Do you want to help local producers in your country survive this crisis? Saskia Littooij – communications officer at Slow Food Netherlands – shares four tips to set up your own Choose Local page.
- Create an online form where people can share their tips. That way you will receive all tips clearly and in the same format, and you can process them directly on your page.
- Actively ask your network via newsletter and social media for local producers, chefs and catering establishments and let them fill it in using the form.
- Clarify the urgency of why small local entrepreneurs are having a hard time right now.
- When your page is online, send a newsletter with clickable links to your supporters and refer them to your page.
- Promote the local producers on your page through your social media channels.
If you have questions about starting a similar page in your own country, or if you have interesting examples of how local businesses are supported in your area, let us know by sending an email to [email protected].