Since March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has caused severe economic downturn and generated a spike in food insecurity in the country. At the same time, farmers had to destroy significant quantities of food because they could not find markets for their products. The crisis has revealed weaknesses and contradictions in our food system – but also opens up opportunities for reform.

  • A lack of resilience in our food system Both supply and demand were drastically impacted. While cattle kept producing milk and vegetables kept growing, shortages in farm labor made it difficult to exploit and harvest them.
  • The importance of revaluing food and food system workers  Food banks were short of transportation, storage capacity, and workers before the pandemic, but even more so now because the majority of volunteers were in the vulnerable age bracket for COVID-19. And the available surplus food does not necessarily match the demand of vulnerable populations.
  • Critical trade-offs between sustainability and food safety We need a buffer of extra food—that generates a certain level of waste—in order to face a situation like this one, and also to ensure healthy and tasty diets as well as food safety.
  • Policies supporting sustainable and local food systems While the federal coronavirus relief package supports farmers based on the surface area of their fields, state and local policies may be able to provide additional support to sustainable farming practices while ensuring fair prices for producers, limiting overproduction and promoting quality over quantity.
  • The role of entrepreneurship and innovative technologies The crisis itself has led to innovative partnerships and solidarity, such as industries and restaurants preparing food for first responders. More generally, new business models can increase flexibility and collaboration within the food supply chain, including through forecasting systems and platforms that help better match supply and demand.
  • Changing social norms to re-value food Even if the initial panic buying may have led to excess consumption and waste, we also see people making the most of their food and learning new skills that help reduce waste, such as planning meals in advance, storing food better, appropriately tracking expiration dates, cooking with available ingredients, and reusing and sharing leftovers.

Read the full article about food security by Marie Mourad at Food Tank.