By Mark Peterson

It is hard to reflect about what was on the horizon from my vantage point sixty, some-odd days ago with COVID–19 but a specter in my mind’s eye, lurking in the distance. The specter lingered uncertainly, and yet, I was hopeful, looking forward to watching my boys play high school soccer and feeling proud of my daughter who was set to start training at a new job at a coffee shop while attending college. I was scheming a visit to see her and enjoy her newfound barista skills. Alas, these activities fell by the wayside in the sixty days since, and the COVID–19 specter was no longer just lurking, instead looming large, intruding without regard into our daily lives and throwing asunder careful and casual plans all the same. Change has come fast and in ways very much unexpected and somehow, on most days, I remain hopeful for the future.

Much has been written already about the bumpy road ahead and the jarring ride that will ensue, mimicking the jagged graphs we see almost daily, tracking this virus and its toll. I suppose there will be plenty of time to ruminate on the trials and tribulations ahead and I find myself being pulled into that car ride of thought too. But, maybe out of my own self-preservation, I have been working hard to retrain my brain to accept what is, celebrate what should be celebrated, and remain steadfast in my hope. Thankfully, the work that has been my profession over the past two-and-a-half years provides me daily examples of people being good humans, doing what they can to take care of themselves, their families, their friends, and their communities large and small.

When I envisioned our Food Recovery Program, never would I have imagined it would become a key component of a resilient community during a pandemic. I was thinking more about food waste in terms of positively effecting climate change and honoring food for the precious resource it is. And yet, here I am reverently reveling in the joy and hope my work brings me on a daily basis and it helps me assuage my worries of what tomorrow, next month, or next year, may bring.

Food recovery during the best of times is challenging and continuing this vital work during a pandemic makes it even more so. Multiple layers of obstacles abound and yet our team, our collaborators, and our volunteers find ways to overcome these obstacles and make headway to help those in our community — every day. There are so many stories I’d like to share of heartfelt donations and timely actions to save food that would have otherwise spoiled and gone to waste. The generosity of companies like Hemplers, Acme Ice Cream, and Avenue Bread is amazing. The smart thinking by the Skagit and Swinomish casinos, Bellingham Public Schools, and so many others is inspiring. The collaborations between Sustainable Connections, Miracle Food Network, and the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center, among others, are comforting.

Sustainable Connections staff members Mark Peterson and Abbie Lindeberg clean coolers donated to the Food Recovery Program for food safety during transport. Keeping clean with donated Chuckanut Bay Distillery hand sanitizer.

So much good has happened as we face this crisis and I could easily write a novel of all the good deeds I have witnessed. Who knows, maybe someday I will, but in the meantime we will continue to share the stories of hope through our newsletters, social media, and educational events — whether socially distanced or virtual. I feel thankful, because like the food we recover, the outpouring of compassionate, collaborative action provides me sustenance for my soul. I hope it does the same for you.

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