The community after stabilization
After the scenario stabilizes, and it appear to be getting no worse, then people will venture out in a community for answers and assistance. Knowing what is most important, and fulfilling a role in that recovery will greatly settle things down. Here's a list of some things that I think are factors and priorities.
If the weather is bad, such that it is difficult or dangerous outside, people will have trouble gathering water.
If it is raining, of course people can collect water, but few will know how to do so. You most likely will see crazy methods of gathering water, and unsafe water being consumed. Don't be a know-it-all. People won't listen and will be resentful. If you have a filter, never share this information. It doesn't make sense for you to tell everyone what you have. That is really imprudent. Demonstrating knowledge about a lot of survival skills is another dead giveaway that you are prepared.
If you see someone simply placing water basins outside, which will quickly get tipped over, evaporate, or be ineffective, then you might want to say something like, “You know, I don't know what is best, but we're going to do it this way. What do you think?” People are apt to agree with you in the absence of knowledge. It means that they know what to do through their assent. This is a very good way to communicate. They most likely will tell it to another neighbor, making them an expert, and passing it on. You could end up helping the whole neighborhood.
There may be streams, but those likely will be polluted or unsafe to drink for reasons detailed in depth earlier. Ultimately creating a rotating crew of interested strong people to secure water, filtering it in a central location, and dispensing it, will be a very high priority.
Most likely, in the absence of water from the tap, digging a well will become the first major community project. In the cd3wd link I provided earlier, there are many detailed precise descriptions on how to dig a well, organize its construction, and filter it.
Assessment of Skills
A great thing to organize is an assessment of skills that people possess. Some people will have an interest in something, and a passion to see it through. Other people will be ram-rods who know how to do it, and can lead the project. Many of them will like each other since they have similar interests. If the power goes out, and people decided to barbeque meat rather than spoiling, and you teach them how to grill it, using gathered wood (not charcoal or gas), and salting whatever you can save, and wrapping it up in plastic, to store as safely as you can, then at that crucial moment, you might be able to start discussing an assessment.
Many people will be in denial. They will discuss things like Katrina, and think the government will be coming to help them. They will say it's unnecessary to organize. We have never had a major economic disaster before in which so few of our populace had survival skills. If it's happening all over, then your community can best help themselves. Most of the time, they even tell you that you're truthfully on your own for the first two weeks. People must drink water in three days, or they will die. You cannot wait until the last minute to organize.
People will not know how to best ration their food. Many will eat too much of their supplies as they panic. Many will eat foods in the wrong order. Many will eat food that is spoiled or thawed so long and improperly cooked. You have little control what people eat in their own homes. Doing something like what I discussed with water, and getting their assent will teach them what to do.
Someone may know something that will help everyone to gather food. Someone will no doubt discuss liberating food. You must explain in the strongest terms that such gathering is dangerous, illegal, and ill-advised. People will get shot doing such things. Local governments may declare martial law, seize local food stores, and shoot looters.
Deaths and Burials and Orphans
Some people will die, not seeking help, or knowing what to do. They may die from stress, suicide, mental illness, or simply because they are medically fragile.
These folks will have to be buried. This takes planning, foresight, and consideration of water run off, potential garden spaces, and making the place a sacred area. It cannot proceed haphazardly.
There are many single and extended families. Elderly live with their children who may be unmarried or have children. People who previously relied on income from other folks and support will find themselves without any. Some may be willing to help, but historically children have been split up based upon a lack of taking multiple orphans.
Weather will be a major factor especially in Winter.
If someone can make any ceremony at all, and show respect, it will return to them later.
The grieving process is a long one. In such social upheaval, it will be huge, but dealing with it will be much more difficult that normal. People are not normally buried close by. It will serve as a constant reminder. People are used to certain social conventions regarding grief, none of which will be in place. Many rely upon family, or spiritual leaders, all of which may be too far away to assist them.
Most community gardens that I know of...fail. While many are started with the best of intentions, a large portion of people will begin it, weeds will come in, people will fail to water, people will not harvest ripening vegetables, nor will they pick them in the best way in encourage more growth.
A classic example is broccoli. Most people get a head of broccoli at the store. They've never grown broccoli. They don't realize that it can be planted twice in early spring and late summer for a Fall crop. It loves cool weather. Cutting the head when it begins, and then gathering the side shoots will get you three times the harvest. Ensuring it is side dressed with some kind of fertilizer, and planting it in a cool spot will will ensure a better crop and less bolting. Doing all of these things will mean 6 x the amount of broccoli, producing a veggie that is nutritious, extremely easy to grow, filling, and can be consumed raw. Such tips are stored in the minds of many gardeners and in books.
In the best possible scenario, a community garden would be ram-rodded by a master gardener. That person will motivate those interested for planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting. Leaving everything all loosey-goosey will mean dangerous failure to produce food.
Great gardens take planning and experience. The simplest error will mean failure for veggies or fruit to set. Zucchinis will produce vast amounts of delicious produce if picked continually. Or they will produce giant inedible starchy icky tasting woody veggies. Your master gardener will pass along tips, but hopefully write down ideas, strategies, and help determine the best method for locating plants and determining when to replant them.
Some plants love other plants. This is called companion planting. Planting those plants next to each other ensures a higher yield. Tomatoes and basil are once such example. Planting them this way repels insects.
Many plants can be planted in waves. This is called succession planting. Knowing the weather, and chances of higher heat, or hail, or droughts, will all determine if succession planting is possible or smart to do.
This goes hand in hand with gardening. Great chefs know how to best utilize, can, preserve, or vary the use of a veggie or fruit. When veggies come in abundantly, they must be preserved, and gathering them all in can be very difficult without assistance. The same is true of preserving them.
Knowing how to best use and add variety to a meal is a gift from the Source.
The people who raise the best animals, respect and love them. Naming them is not a great idea for children. All children can help in raising livestock with training. How blessed would you be to have milk goats or cows? How wonderful would chickens and eggs be? How delicious it would be to have healthy rabbits, and not have to waste time trapping them?
Such treasure is more valuable than gold or silver.
Sharing the responsibilities of cooking and gardening and raising livestock together will greatly magnify the amount of produce and happiness in a community. This frees up disinterested people to do other activities versus everyone doing all of the same activities. There is some wisdom to specialization.