As news of layoffs and job furloughs begin to stream in, many of our neighbors are worried about basic survival through the Covid-19 pandemic.

The North Texas Food Bank is providing relief via food boxes and suspending its volunteer model, instead hiring out-of-work food service employees via shiftsmart.

For those still working and socially distancing, what is the most ethical way to feed ourselves?

The Atlantic took on this question:

Is it safe to order delivery, both for you and for the person bringing you food? Is it safe to go to a grocery store that might be packed with panicked people? How do you support community businesses while social distancing? How do you lessen the burden that you put on people in service jobs? It’s time for America to figure out how to feed itself during a pandemic.

As long as food is handled properly, that is, no one is sneezing or coughing directly into it, cooked food doesn’t pose much threat as far as spreading the virus, the article states.

For food delivery, the risk is low for recipients, as long as they wash their hands before they eat. But the risk is higher for deliverers, who come into contact with a lot of people. You can make it safer for yourself and your delivery person by asking them to leave the food outside your door. Don’t forget to tip electronically or leave cash.

A local restaurant is a better choice than a start-up that sends gig workers with no health-care benefits into crowded big-box grocery stores to fight over dried beans on your behalf. The restaurant delivery person interacts with fewer people, lessening his or her individual risk, and the money you pay for the food goes toward keeping a restaurant’s staff employed through a crisis. In Wuhan, local delivery drivers were the city’s lifeline during a lockdown that made venturing out for fresh food difficult.

Actually going to the grocery store could be more of a risk than ordering groceries to be delivered. The Atlantic quoted experts who recommend shopping at odd hours and trying to find stores that are off the beaten path. Again, groceries are more dangerous for cashiers and other workers than they are for shoppers.

Steven Benko, a professor of religious and ethical studies at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, tells the Atlantic:

“We’re so connected to each other and reliant on people working in the background, but we don’t even see who keeps the shelves restocked, or who brings things” to us, he says. “People only become visible to us in the perception that they could harm us, as opposed to becoming visible to us in the fact that they’re taking a risk to their health by being helpful to us.”

One takeaway from that story is this: Spending money with local businesses during the Covid crisis does more good than harm, but please keep in mind that the workers of the world are putting themselves at risk for the comfort of everyone else.

So far, we haven’t heard of a restaurant in Oak Cliff that has closed completely because of coronavirus. Almost everyone is open and offering takeout, curbside pickup or delivery. One local restaurant owner estimated that it would only take three days of lost revenues to close just about any restaurant. If you’re still working, it’s most ethical to let a local restaurant feed you.