The Future of Feeding Ourselves

Food for Thought: Can we continue to rely on the decades-old means of growing, harvesting, shipping and buying fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and other products when COVID-19 impedes this complex web of frail links in every segment of the grocery-chain?

This article appeared in the Floyd Press (Floyd, VA) on April 31, 2020.

If you read it there, you probably did NOT go to the resources page, and you should at least give a look for links to planting, gardening and online ordering for local food.

Feeding ourselves through and beyond the current contagion must take on a new priority right away.

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating previously unknown problems we must deal with regarding all aspects of food and eating. It has exacerbated existing deficiencies in the commerce and consumption of food; and it has caused consumers and land-stewards to look again at the agri-business history of broken links in the chain between fertile soil and hungry bellies.

Let’s take a quick look at threats to our food supply, and then consider food choices we can make now that require the fewest food miles, provide the highest nutrition and offer the healthiest means for us to buy and eat local food, and all this, while supporting our farmer-neighbors.

The present and future impacts of COVID-19 on our at-risk food supply are many. In this short space, we can only paint concerns in the “grocery cycle” with a broad brush. What might go wrong?

–Border issues and COVID19 risks brings about a lack of workers to plant and pick

–Timing failures in harvest, shipping, shelving and purchase of perishables

–Lack of healthy truckers to transport food across the continent

–Bottlenecks in supply chain fail to route shipments to areas of greatest need or workers (meatpackers etc.) become infected creating weak links in delivery channels.

–A rigidly-structured food system fails to repurpose product for end-buyers- — from empty cruise ships, universities, restaurants and Disney World to local grocery stores where demand is high.

–Food protectionism suspends exports and prevents imports

And looking at the consequences of just this short and partial list of issues, the likely outcomes include:

–Massive Food waste. Fresh vegetables being turned into mulch. Millions of gallons of milk being dumped. Slaughterhouses idled by sick workers.

–Maldistribution of available food not reaching the most needy and at-risk

— And soon to come: Much reduced variety for non-local and out of season fruits and vegetables, and…

–Worsening shortages and a significant increase in food prices

In the midst of these concerns and increasing agri-biz dysfunction, a revolution is rapidly unfolding in the local-foods landscape. Online orders have increased enormously, nationwide, in the past two months.

Access to locally-grown and available meats, cheese, fruits and vegetables has become a digital priority. With the requirements for social distancing, plans are being made by individual providers to take online orders and provide for safe exchange in the US, including Floyd county.

The existing social and natural resources in rural SWVA put us in good position to take immediate action in this time of urgent need to move ourselves back towards food sovereignty and security.

The season for The Floyd Victory Garden has arrived. And our local farmers and gardeners can help both nourish and educate us in this community effort to feed ourselves. What can we do now?

— Use the Floyd Market Guide to find local vendors, many of whom have online ordering. Support our Food Champions and join them working the soil.

— Learn how you can shop safely with social distancing at our Farmers Market, opening May 2.

— Find out what the needs are for donations to local food banks such as Plenty! where volunteer services are complicated by COVID19.

— Ramp up your backyard garden with extra rows for surplus to give to neighbors. Ask for help and information for tending larger and more productive gardens and orchards. Let’s do it now!

You can view and/or download helpful information on these food-centric actions and more at this link: https://www.are.na/fred-first/food-beyond-the-pandemic