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Credit: Felicity Yick

The news that longtime campus staple Magic Carpet Foods has been forced to rely on donations for survival may come as a disappointment for many in the Penn community. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily surprising — the COVID-19 pandemic has caused substantial financial challenges, with small businesses losing 20% of their revenue and many being forced to close down entirely. 

Philadelphia businesses in particular have suffered greatly due to the pandemic. As of last month, the city had lost $4 billion in economic impact, with many businesses near campus feeling some of the worst effects. In light of the economic harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn students must do their part and support local businesses when they can.

The Penn community is crucial for the financial viability of many local businesses. Local restaurants struggled in the aftermath of the University shutdown in mid-March, with some losing more than 80% of revenue. One local business owner estimated 80% of all revenue comes from students, not to mention faculty, staff, and alumni. As many students have returned to campus this fall, they now have the opportunity to begin restoring some of the business these restaurants lost. 

There are several ways in which Penn students can support local businesses while maintaining both their own safety and the safety of the local community. The first, and arguably most obvious, is to visit food trucks more often. Given that students stay outdoors, there is relatively little risk of coronavirus transmission if mask-wearing and social distancing are adhered to. Students could also extend their support to outdoor restaurants. Places such as Copabanana have seating available outdoors, with little to no inside contact required.

In addition to dining at restaurants, Penn students should also consider visiting other local institutions, provided that adequate safety precautions can be maintained. Salons such as Luxe Nail Bar rely on students for a big part of their business, and the Clark Park Farmers Market offers an outdoor option for buying produce and food items. Even if some students are too cautious to go out to eat or receive personal grooming from a third party, they can still support local businesses without leaving their homes. For example, students can order food from local businesses directly or using food delivery apps such as UberEats, GrubHub, and Postmates.

The University of Pennsylvania and West Philadelphia have had a complicated relationship over the years. However, this is one case where both can mutually benefit one another. If Penn students visit local businesses such as restaurants and food trucks, they can get out of the house in a safe manner, and many University City businesses can avoid potential financial damage.

Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.