Aside from questions about the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to wonder where our food comes from and whether we will have enough of it. According to a report by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), COVID-19 could have affected up to 265 million people with acute food shortages in 2020. The combined effects of the pandemic and the looming global recession could “be of little consequence”. Scaling coordinated action, disrupting the functioning of food systems ”, which“ would have consequences for health and nutrition of severity and magnitude not seen in more than half a century, ”says another UN report.
In the United States, overall food insecurity has “doubled and tripled in households with children due to the pandemic,” according to a June 2020 report by Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR) based on data from the US Household Impulse Survey of the Census Bureau. In a recent interview with CBS News, IPR Director Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach warned that these statistics would likely “continue to exist,” with the numbers pointing to a particularly dramatic increase in food insecurity among black and Latin American families. Indeed, color families are disproportionately affected. According to an analysis of the new census data from the Center for Budgetary and Political Priorities (CBPP), 22 percent of black and 21 percent of Latin American respondents said they didn’t have enough to eat, compared with just 9 percent of white people.
Globally, the impact of COVID-19 on food security is equally, if not more severe. WFP Director David Beasley told the UN Security Council in April 2020 that the world was “on the verge of a hunger pandemic,” according to a report by CBS News. He added: “In the worst case scenario, we could face famine in about three dozen countries, and in fact, in ten of those countries we already have more than a million people per country on the verge of hunger. ”
“The number of chronically starving people rose by an estimated 130 million to over 800 million last year – about eight times the total number of previous COVID-19 cases,” wrote Mark Lowcock, secretary-general and emergency aid coordinator at the United Nations Office for Coordination Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Axel van Trotsenburg, Managing Director of the World Bank. “Countries affected by conflict and climate change are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Empty stomachs can hold back entire generations. “
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) warns that climate change “is likely to reduce continued advances in global food security through disruptions in production that lead to local availability constraints and price increases, disrupted transportation lines and decreased food safety.” The same applies to the pandemic, which has made it clear that climate resilience, food security and global health are closely linked.
With regards to food security, another major concern is the global school closings in connection with pandemics. UNICEF reports that more than 1.6 billion children and young people are affected. Schools provide children with a lifeline for food. For so many, that’s where they get their only nutritious meal of the day. In January, UNICEF research bureau Innocenti and WFP released a new report that found that more than 39 billion school meals have been missed worldwide since the pandemic began. 370 million children worldwide have 40 percent of school failures missed meals.
In early 2020, when COVID-19 was still a looming specter rather than the deadly virus we are more familiar with today, the threat of food insecurity was a practical issue. Scenes of shoppers getting into the aisles to get supplies were a common sight. As CNN reported in March 2020, supermarkets around the world were rationing groceries and other products such as toilet paper and detergents to help reduce supplies.
In Vermont, for example, a steady rise in food insecurity since the beginning of the pandemic has to do with employment levels, according to a survey by the University of Vermont between March and April 2020. Approximately 45 percent of respondents “had lost their jobs. Another two-thirds of respondents who experienced food shortages in their households” have “had job losses or disruptions since the pandemic broke out,” according to the survey. Vermont is just one example; The effects were felt in the United States. In the week leading up to Thanksgiving in 2020, the Guardian reported that 5.6 million US households “had difficulty getting enough food on the table” while referring to the CBPP’s analysis of census data.
As the pandemic continues to transform lives around the world, it is affecting the entire food supply chain. As factory and supermarket workers are very vulnerable to COVID-19, food production declined and prices rose at the same time. As reported by Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), farmers in the US were faced with labor shortages even before the pandemic, with increased immigration and the increased risk and associated risks Poor Compensation At these jobs, “food processors and farm contractors may have difficulty finding other workers willing to risk their lives to work in meat factories, pack sheds, or produce fields.”
The pandemic has exposed the weakness of the industrialized global food system, which depends on long, complex transport chains and cross-border travel. “[T]The monstrous and unsustainable food industry, known as the Big Ag, relies on the appalling treatment of workers, a wasteful allocation of resources and global environmental degradation – and if necessary it can quickly lead to the almost complete collapse of the entire system, such as delays, bottlenecks and Pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic and the worsening hunger crisis in America, ”April M. Short, an Associate at the Independent Media Institute, wrote recently in Salon. “One of the many necessary systemic changes that 2020 has revealed is the need to fundamentally reorganize the way we grow and access food in our communities.”
It didn’t take the pandemic to expose the inefficiency and injustice of our food system: Globally, a third of all food is wasted, while almost 690 million people were malnourished in 2019 – almost 60 million more people than in 2014. But the pandemic underscored the matter: According to OCHA, it could “The number of acutely food-insecure people due to COVID-19 will rise to 270 million, which corresponds to an increase of 82 percent compared to the number of acutely food-insecure people before COVID-19.”
And the disruption in transportation has shown that the long distances food typically takes to get from one place to another can be a serious hazard during a crisis. “[F]Good banks are under tremendous pressure to meet the skyrocketing demand, “said a CNN article quoted from a letter sent by Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, and Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, wrote to then Agriculture Minister Sonny Perdue in April 2020. “At the same time, however, literally tons of agricultural goods are being thrown away due to the closure of much of the economy.”
Consumer demand has shifted from dining in and out of the home, and the food supply chain has had to retool. And these effects were felt in the transport sector. Forbes reported that Andrew Novakovic, an agricultural economist at Cornell University, “points to a number of weaknesses in the food transportation system that could be exacerbated by the increased demand for food.” A shortage of truck drivers is a potential weak point, says Novakovic. Although he admits that there is a debate on the matter, Novakovic claims that “[t]Jerking companies are finding it much more difficult to recruit [those] Long distance rider. “China, which was the first country to be hit by the virus, provides insight into the ongoing impact of the pandemic on transportation and food systems. The lockdown in China’s Hubei province, home to 66 million people, resulted in a shortage of deliveries of animal feed as well as refrigerated containers of imported vegetables, fruits and frozen meat in February 2020.
Not only has the pandemic changed consumer demand, but it has also led us to take a closer look at where our food comes from and how it affects not only the lives of food workers but the lives of the animals trapped in the food system. According to a new public opinion poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and commissioned by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,[t]The vast majority (89 percent) of Americans are concerned about industrial animal husbandry and identify animal welfare, occupational safety, or public health risks as concerns. The survey also found that “85 percent of farmers and their families are in favor of a total ban on new industrial livestock facilities – almost twice as much as the public.” That finding shows crucial support for the Farm System Reform Act Law introduced in 2019 by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey that includes a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms.
Food insecurity has long been a pressing problem, especially for developing countries. However, Mir Ashrafun Nahar, a research fellow with the South Asian Economic Modeling Network, stated in a Financial Express article, “The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more acute.” In response, Nahar advocates a policy-based approach called “Subsidy-based transportation systems for.” agriculture ”to support supply chains, as well as measures to reduce agricultural production costs to help farmers recover from the effects of the pandemic.
With the pandemic still affecting the food supply, there are a number of logical steps we can take to reduce the virus’ impact and maximize production. “OSHA first [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and instruct the USDA to establish emergency standards that require employers to provide personal protective equipment, adequate space to work without spreading the virus, and housing and transportation to reduce the spread of the virus, ”wrote Faber.
Unfortunately, Faber’s proposals, proposed in April 2020, were not considered under the Trump administration. Faber’s relief efforts also include expanding the USDA’s programs to purchase excess raw materials to offset disruptions in the supply chain. Forwarding food that could be destroyed to food banks; and increase standard SNAP (grocery stamps) benefits by 15 percent. And following Nahar, Faber also suggests adopting guidelines that will help reduce the financial burdens on farmers and food suppliers, and offer subsidy support.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental economic group with 37 member countries, said in a report released in June 2020 that the pandemic “has closed existing gaps in social protection systems”. “While the impact of COVID-19 is still evolving. Past experience shows the importance of an open and predictable international trading environment to ensure that food can get where it is needed, ”the OECD report said. “The greatest risk to food security is not food availability, but consumer access to food: safety nets are essential to avoid increasing hunger and food insecurity.”
Another problem is the lack of media coverage of global food insecurity, especially during the COVID-19 era. As the Economist recently pointed out, in 2020 journalists wrote “more than 50,000 articles about the canceled Eurovision song competition, but only around 2,000 about drought and hunger in Zambia”.
Fortunately, beyond the failure of a government-led response to the pandemic, there have been some positive outcomes at the community level. As restaurants and supermarkets become less profitable, the demand and supply of local food has increased. According to HuffPost, Farmers have seen “a massive surge in demand for local products”. The result of this trend is that consumers who have access to local food are permanently changing their behavior in relation to food procurement and consumption.
Things are also changing at the federal level. In a recent article on how the US food system might be transformed during the Biden administration, the New York Times food correspondent Kim Severson noted: “[h]Unger relief is an urgent problem “for Tom Vilsack, who was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Agriculture in Biden’s cabinet, a role the former Iowa governor also held under the Obama administration. While Severson notes that Vilsack has its critics, President Biden has already made changes to the top and signed an executive order designed to help families and businesses through the COVID-19 crisis, including “expanding and expanding federal food aid programs.” to “[a]Tackle the growing hunger crisis that 29 million Americans are facing. “His proposal to Congress includes a $ 3 billion package to” help women, infants and children get the food they need “and” access nutritious food to millions of children who are suffering from school closings no meals received ”.
In order for the food system to be reformed in a meaningful way, changes must take place at all levels: from federal, state and local administrations to the Big Ag, to small farmers and everyday consumers. As the future becomes increasingly uncertain due to the climate crisis – one of President Biden’s top priorities – adapting to new ways of producing and transporting food will be key to our survival.
* *This article first appeared on truth and was produced in partnership with Earth | Food | Life, a project by the Independent Media Institute.