Giving Compass' Take:

•  Mike Hower discusses the social impacts of the food system, as it comes with many political and social challenges for farmers and consumers that seek sustainability.

• How can donors help contribute to a food system that is equitable and sustainable? Where do the most significant barriers lie? 

• Read why women are key for a more sustainable food system. 

The events of the past month have given many of us a newfound appreciation for our global food system. For many, the sight of depleted grocery store shelves was what made the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) jump in our minds from an abstract to an immediate threat.

Granted, the lack of pasta, oat milk and, of course, toilet paper was more a result of panic buying than an actual shortage of supply. The global food supply chain remains strong for now, thanks to hardworking farmworkers around the world, although the widespread shutdown of restaurant, hospital and foodservice organizations has resulted in an increase in food waste.

That reliance on hand labor is something to watch in the coming weeks. Some 75 percent of fresh fruit consumed in the United States, for example, is completely dependent on hand-harvesting. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, U.S. farmworkers faced a slew of social, economic and political challenges that have caused a decades-long farmworker shortage. In addition to threatening the overall stability of the U.S. food supply chain, this shortage translates to more than $3 billion in lost opportunities for growers, says New American Economy.

From farm to table, people are what make our food system possible, and we must address their needs alongside the planet’s. Doing so is both the right thing to do and also makes business sense. Yet, many social, ethical and political challenges remain.

When it comes to consumers and social impact, there is an element of push and pull. Although consumers increasingly are demanding ethical and sustainable food, companies also must find ways to engage them on these issues. This isn’t always so easy.

Read the full article about social impact of the food system by Mike Hower at GreenBiz.