As the number of coronavirus cases grows and global anxiety rockets, we're donating to food banks, supporting local businesses and reviving the pen pal in an attempt to combat the damaging mental and physical effects of self-isolating.
Instead of shaking our heads from behind our screens at the empty shelves and embarking on an Insta-story rant at the stupidity of stockpiling pasta, we're reaching out a (virtual) hand (or elbow) to those who need our help the most. As the number of coronavirus cases grows and global anxiety rockets, we're donating to food banks, supporting local businesses and reviving the pen pal in an attempt to combat the damaging mental and physical effects self-isolating can have on the high at-risk community. Working from home, obsessive hand-washing and hunting for the last pack of loo roll may have become our new norm, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the wider world.
Coronavirus affected your community? Here are nine ways you can support those in need.
Donate to food banks
Dwindling donations and empty supermarket shelves means that food banks are facing shortages and putting the most vulnerable in our community under immense strain. Look through your fridge, pantry and freezers to see if there is anything you can spare or donate. Call ahead to your local food bank to see if they need any specific products or better still, use your cash or card to donate. It gives food banks the flexibility to replenish their stocks.
Use the The Trussell Trust, a UK charity that provides nationwide hunger relief, to find your local food bank; search the US directory Feeding America to find ways you can donate food or money; Citymeals is a NYC-based organisation that's taking donations to ensure New York's eldery are getting nourishing meals while Los Angeles Regional Food Bank looks after LA's most vulnerable residents.
Join OLIO, a community platform created to reduce waste and promote sustainable food sharing. Don't worry; the NHS has said it's unlikely that the virus can be spread through things like packages or food. To give door-to-door donations in your neighbourhood, simply post a picture of food that's nearing its sell-by date and where/when it's available to pick-up.
Support local businesses
Small businesses already operate on thin margins and many won't have a work-from-home option. Shop locally whenever you can, honour cleaning services if you've already budgeted for them and purchase gift cards for your go-to nail salons, make-up artists and hairdressers. It'll help future-proof their finances and give you something to look forward to once we get back to our daily routines.
Join a volunteer group and check in on at-risk neighbours
We lean on each other in times of crisis and need to stand solidarity and come together.
Mutual-aid groups have sprung up across several countries to coordinate care efforts, pool resources and offer practical support. Search this site to find your nearest grassroots group or set one up in your community if you can't find one. Ask neighbours how you can help, whether that's running errands, posting letters or picking up prescriptions - Imad's Syrian Kitchen is shopping for the elderly, while the Viral Kindness campaign supports vulnerable neighbours. Download a Viral Kindness postcard here and pop one through your neighbours' doors to see if you can help.
Call your grandparents and other members of your family that might feel alone or scared about the prospect of self-isolating. A friendly phone call or FaceTime will help keep spirits high and ensure you've got a plan of action in place. Don't forget to (virtually) drop in on self-employed and freelancer friends, they too will be feeling the (mental and physical) crunch.
Don't cancel travel plans, rearrange them
We know that any imminent travel isn't possible and, trust us, we're suffering from itchy feet too. If you can afford it, rearrange travel plans rather than cancelling them. It'll help family-run hotels knowing they've got not-to-distant (we hope) reservations - plus, many airlines are offering complimentary rescheduling. Bookmark our COVID-19 cheat sheet to easily check the policies of local airlines and travel companies.
Buy gift vouchers for your favourite restaurants or order takeaway
The hospitality industry and millions of people who work in the sector - from small-batch suppliers, artisan coffee shops to restaurant staff - will bear the brunt of the financial impact of mass isolation. Dinner plans and reservations derailed? Buy gift vouchers to your favourite restaurants to support them. Order takeout to keep restaurants going and give extra love to your neighbourhood Asian takeaways that have sadly been the victim of xenophobia and racism.
Restaurants such as Merienda in Edinburgh are launching social-distancing fine dining menus which can be delivered straight to your door (no-contact measures in place) with instructions on how best to enjoy the dishes.
Write to a resident in a local care home
Remember the time when you would write a letter to your French pen pal in pastel gel pen and wait eagerly by the letterbox to receive their response? Well, we're reviving the pen pal and sending our letters to a resident in a care home instead. With limitations being imposed on visitors, the elderly run the risk of becoming incredibly lonely. They may not be accepting social visits, but that doesn't mean they're not social - send letters, cards and drawings telling residents about your day. Don't forget to include your address so they can write back.
Set up a watch party
Quarantine & Chill? Netflix and Facebook have both introduced new streaming party services for long-distance movie nights, kind of like a WhatsApp group chat but streaming. Set one up, mix up a quarantini cocktail and keep your friends and family sane in these uncertain times.
Stock up on books from independent bookstores
Before the threat of coronavirus, independent bookstores were already under immense pressure to stay open and now they're really on the brink as in-person shopping decreases to zero. Bypass Amazon and order online from independent stores. Not only will it help save your local literary store, but it'll help to support authors whose book tours have been cancelled too.
Lobby your supermarkets to open early for the elderly
Not everyone has the ability to seek out the last remaining supermarket or corner store to stock tinned beans. Thankfully, big brands such as Iceland, Walmart and Australia's Walmart are opening two hours early for the elderly. If your local big store hasn't followed suit, then give them a call, write to the head office on social media and lobby for them to allow the vulnerable in early when the store is sanitised, fully stocked and any risk remains at its lowest point.