We’re not exactly at war…
And so there haven’t been rules about food intake per household, like the last time there were rations. While mainstream headlines continue to remind us that there are no food shortages yet…
It’s hard to envision a world where a pandemic doesn’t at least lead to food insecurity. And we can easily see how that would happen. Meat-packing plants in Iowa alone saw nearly 1,500 cases of coronavirus, due to the concentrated and unsafe conditions for many of those workers.
Here’s the thing to remember – food shortage doesn’t necessarily mean that enough food doesn’t exist. In this case, it means that there has been a break in the supply chain and has resulted in difficult food distribution.
The United States is a BIG place. You may not have been personally affected by food shortage or price gouging, but it’s happening all over the country.
Partially, the reason this disruption has even affected Americans is that we have a meatpacking monopoly in this country. When enormous butchering and packaging plants like Smithfield and Tyson shut down, smaller slaughterhouses simply don’t have the ability – size, scope, manpower, storage – to pick up the slack and close the shortage gap.
This leaves pig, cow, and chicken farmers with livestock they can’t offload, and meat that doesn’t make it to our tables.
But it’s not just meat we’re talking about…
Produce Shortage Produces Panic
The early days of the pandemic saw shoppers panic-buying produce and stocking up on perishables.
Savvy consumers then began growing vegetable gardens to insulate themselves against the twin possibilities of limited crop supply and grocery store-raids by nervous citizens.
But in some parts of the world, especially places with strict lockdown measures (not the suggested safety guidelines we have in the States), vegetables either expired faster in hotter climates than they could get to stores, or they couldn’t get to stores at all.
Seed stores and nurseries have reported incredible sales, and more business than some have had in decades.
So we’re all forced to draw some pretty quick conclusions:
- Meatpacking monopolies don’t hold up well against pandemics. Their employees aren’t offered protections, and therefore are susceptible to striking. The plants themselves are at risk of closing due to documented cases.
- Local farmers often get hit the hardest – being used to meeting a level of demand (schools, slaughterhouses, individuals, restaurants, etc.), their supply goes to waste and they’re given minimal survival support. This takes into account the relief that was allotted for farmers by the coronavirus aid package passed in April – which rings in rather low in comparison to their losses, and comes with myriad strings attached.
- Consumers don’t actually know a lot about what goes into the production of their food – from raising livestock, to developing contracts with Big Ag meatpackers, to distributing the results nationally.
What can we do?
They have supply, we have demand…
Source Right from the Farm
Farm-to-table eating habits have gained plenty of traction in the last few decades. Consumers loved the idea of restaurants buying directly from farmers rather than from restaurant supply depots.
But now, we have a chance to circumvent the middle man entirely…
Farmers are hurting. They’re afraid that their place in America’s future won’t be there after the pandemic. And they might be right – wouldn’t it be cleaner if slaughterhouses and government agencies controlled the means of production and didn’t have to negotiate with farmers?
And our food supply isn’t as simple and immutable as we thought it was.
All around the country, grassroots movements are growing to facilitate directly purchasing goods from farmers.
Try these tips to connect with your local farmers and buy from them:
- If it’s safe and possible, get your face masks and your gloves and trek on down to your local farmer’s market. Buy right from the producers and grocers, and make connections while you’re there! Would it be possible for you to go right to their farm? What do they have a surplus of? Could you and a few neighbors go in on splitting a pig, buying several chickens, etc.?
- Search organic farms in your area – it’s likely that if they have more supplies than they know what to do with, they’ll advertise it on their websites!
- Try shopping at green grocers or butchers instead of at supermarkets. It’s likelier that those kinds of stores are buying right from farmers, and will need to restock supplies the more you buy from them.
- If you’re making an effort to support local farmers, tell your friends! Encourage them to shop from farmers as well!
Earning money isn’t evil – turning a profit from working your land isn’t a death knell for socialist principles. In fact, it’s one of the more socially conscious ways to participate in capitalism.
Now more than ever, it deeply matters where our dollars go.
You’re going to eat anyway – does Big Ag need that buck? Should Big Ag get that buck?
You get to decide.