If anyone nursed the idea that the coronavirus would be behind us by summer, they were sorely mistaken.

This spring, as Covid-19 continued its deadly spread, the pandemic shined an unflattering light on our nation’s food and public health systems.

Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Nutrition Action’s publisher, sprang into action (cspinet.org/covid-19).

Here are some of the steps we’ve taken:

  • Fighting for workers. Workers across the food supply chain, especially in the meatpacking industry, continued to bear the brunt of the pandemic. In April, President Trump classified meat processing plants as “critical infrastructure” and promised to “take all appropriate action” to keep them operating.

In effect, he was asking workers, many of whom are people of color or recent immigrants, to return to risky slaughterhouses even as infections continued to mount.

The men and women who produce our food deserve better. CSPI opposed the move and called for personal protective equipment, strictly enforced distancing—critical where workers toil shoulder to shoulder—and paid sick leave.

  • Spreading science. As misinformation turned as viral as the pandemic, I started a blog. “Beyond the Curve” explores the scientific and human dimensions of Covid-19, from vaccines to antibody testing to drugs. I debunked claims about hydroxychloroquine, bleach, and colloidal silver. (For more, subscribe at cspinet.org/beyondthecurve.)
food workers
Food workers need distancing, protective gear, and paid sick leave.
  • Expanding food assistance. Food banks have been inundated as millions have lost their jobs. A crucial step to address this hunger emergency: expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

CSPI pushed for raising the maximum monthly benefit (which largely helps families with the lowest incomes), boosting the minimum benefit, and protecting participants from attempts to restrict who is eligible for SNAP. That would not only help millions of Americans put food on the table but also provide a much-needed economic boost.

  • Supporting school meals. Though many schools switched to virtual teaching, they continued to distribute meals to schoolchildren and families in need. CSPI called on Congress to increase funding for school food programs and provide free meals to all children at all schools next year.

The pandemic continues to challenge us in ways we never thought possible. But we’re all in this together. And CSPI will be here to harness strong science and advocacy to meet the challenge.

Peter G. Lurie, MD, MPH
Center for Science in the Public Interest