‘…severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions’
Smithfield Foods, one of the nation’s largest meat producers, has an ominous warning about America’s food supply.
The company announced on Sunday that it was closing its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after nearly 300 employees there tested positive for coronavirus, the Associated Press reported. The plant is one of the largest pork processing centers in America, and is responsible for producing 18 million servings of food per day.
In a statement, Smithfield president and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said the COVID-19 outbreak is having disastrous impacts on the U.S. food supply chain.
Hong Kong (CNN)As the novel coronavirus pandemic shuts down businesses globally and sends countries into lockdown, the disruptions are threatening to cut off supply chains and increase food insecurity.
“Supermarket shelves remain stocked for now,” the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said in a report released late last month. “But a protracted pandemic crisis could quickly put a strain on the food supply chains, a complex web of interactions involving farmers, agricultural inputs, processing plants, shipping, retailers and more.”
The issue, however, is not food scarcity — at least, not yet. Rather, it’s the world’s drastic measures in response to the virus.
Border closures, movement restrictions, and disruptions in the shipping and aviation industries have made it harder to continue food production and transport goods internationally — placing countries with few alternative food sources at high risk.
In Wisconsin and Ohio, farmers are dumping thousands of gallons of fresh milk into lagoons and manure pits. An Idaho farmer has dug huge ditches to bury 1 million pounds of onions. And in South Florida, a region that supplies much of the Eastern half of the United States with produce, tractors are crisscrossing bean and cabbage fields, plowing perfectly ripe vegetables back into the soil.
The amount of waste is staggering. The nation’s largest dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are dumping as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. A single chicken processor is smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs every week.
The widespread destruction of fresh food — at a time when many Americans are hurting financially and millions are suddenly out of work — is an especially dystopian turn of events, even by the standards of a global pandemic.
Shortages of many basic items on supermarket shelves in Maine and elsewhere are likely to persist for months as food suppliers scramble to meet unprecedented consumer demand.
With initial stockpiles gone and most families staying home from work and school, grocery purchases are up significantly and demand for some items is far surpassing available supply, according to industry leaders in Maine.
There is no reason to panic, they said. Store shelves still have plenty of food, and there are currently no major disruptions in the supply chain. Supermarket customers are presented with plenty of bread, meat, dairy and fresh produce.
But stores are having a hard time keeping stores of dry goods, canned and frozen vegetables, pasta, rice, baking supplies, paper products and eggs, among other items.
The journey from field to plate has been interrupted in our locked down world.
Why it matters: With some crops rotting in fields and others subject to export bans, the coronavirus crisis could cause shortages in richer countries and hunger in poorer ones.
In Europe, as in North America, the harvest depends on migration.
German asparagus, French strawberries and Italian tomatoes are picked by Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians.
Harder borders are now limiting movement, and workers are reluctant to travel due to fears of infection or quarantine.
Officials across Western Europe have declared farmhands critical workers. They’ve also called on newly unemployed people to take to the fields.
Fearing a prolonged crisis, some countries have halted exports of key foodstuffs — rice from Vietnam, wheat from Kazakhstan, fish from Cambodia.
That could have serious downstream effects for poor countries that import most of their food, the Washington Post notes, though other big exporters plan to keep trade flowing.
The bottom line: “There is enough food, but food and other essential commodities must keep moving,” John Crisci, supply chain director at the UN World Food Program tells Axios. “We cannot let this health crisis turn into a food crisis.”
The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic is threatening food security as experts from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said lockdowns and restrictions on public transport are hampering food production.
Woldring and Roth said the spread of Covid-19 has caused farm labor shortages since workers could not travel to farms, are sick, or busy taking care of family members who are ill.
“This will affect the timeliness of farm operations, and the ability to complete various farm operations. Fertilizer shortages are being reported as supply chains in the production and transport phases are disrupted, and this will translate to a reduction in crop yields,”
“While the focus of most governments is presently on health, financial and economic impacts, planning is required today to avoid higher food prices, impact on populations’ nutrition status and reduced food security,”
Million of Brits are going without meals in a growing food crisis amid the coronavirus lockdown, according to a charity.
Some 1.5 million people have reported going a whole day without eating since the draconian measures were introduced three weeks ago, because they didn’t have enough in their cupboards and fridges.
Local supply chains are restructuring, even as global supply remains intact. Though we can’t predict all the disruptions that lie ahead, we should learn from how we planned for them in the past.
During World War I, Hawaii’s Legislature created the Territorial Food Commission with wide powers to fix prices, seize and allocate food supplies. In World War II, our Office of Civilian Defense’s food control board became the army Governor’s Office of Food Control and oversaw price, production and imports.
The WWI commission’s robust Women’s Committee performed massive outreach. WWII’s effort faced early backlash for not including women on the board. WWI’s commission funded county agents to work with small farmers, a program that later became part of University of Hawaii extension. WWII’s work was dominated by plantation interests that wrongly assumed their industrial agricultures could easily transition to local food production. These are durable lessons on the value of inclusive planning that incorporates long-term impact.
Disaster planning around food often focuses on supply disruptions. Think shortages and distribution issues addressed by mass feeding coordinated with food banks. With this logic, emergency recommendations are that we all have a two-week supply of food and water. There are no significant food stockpiles in the state. Few know these things and even fewer are so prepared. In the flood of unemployment claims, as incomes dry up and savings evaporate, people are losing purchasing power. We cannot expect food banks alone to be the life raft.
Food banks and pantries across the country are facing a steep drop-off in the bread and butter of their operations: food donated by supermarkets and farms.
In an average month, Brian Barks, the CEO of Food Bank for the Heartland, spends about $73,000 buying food to distribute to people in need across Nebraska and western Iowa.
Last month, as the coronavirus was spreading across the U.S., he spent $675,000.
That’s a nearly tenfold increase, because Food Bank for the Heartland, like food banks and pantries across the country, is facing a steep drop-off in the bread and butter of its operations: food donated by supermarkets and farms.
“The grocery stores, as we’ve seen across the country, the shelves are getting bare,” Barks said.
The San Antonio Food Bank distributed one million pounds of food to roughly 6,000 families in a single day as millions across the country turn to charity organizations to avoid going hungry amid coronavirus lockdowns.
Stunning aerial photos show thousands of cars lined up at Trader’s Village in San Antonio, Texas, during the massive food distribution event on Thursday.
Families in need waited hours to get their hands on fresh fruit, vegetables and other non-perishable goods that have become hard to find in traditional stores as panic-buying leaves shelves empty.
The sight of long rows of cars waiting outside food banks has become more frequent since the pandemic has made its impact on the United States, with similar scenes seen in Florida and Pennsylvania in the last two weeks.
Food banks across America are warning that they cannot cope with the huge surge in demand caused by mass unemployment during the coronavirus.
With tens of millions of Americans unemployed, cities across the nation are struggling to meet the demand for food as long lines are seen outside nonprofits who are feeding those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Food banks from Maine to Washington have warned that donations have plummeted while demand has surged by many multiples etc
Motorists lined up for over a mile for emergency groceries offered Friday at a drive-up site run by a Pittsburgh food bank.
With Covid-19 upending daily life, many senior citizens in Central Texas are finding their access to food limited and their social isolation increased.
“Food became the overall concern for everybody,” Patty Bordie, director of the CAPCOG Area Agency on Aging, told the Austin Monitor. “There’s a huge need right now because people don’t know how long it’s going to go on.”
Services like Meals on Wheels Central Texas, which distributes food to homebound older adults, and the Food Bank of Central Texas have been working to fill the gap but are limited by social distancing rules and a constricted food supply chain.
COVID-19 has made isolation, food stockpiling and stress the norm — a perfect storm for someone struggling with an eating disorder.
Eating disorders affect around one in 12 people and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, says mental health advocate Shaleen Jones.
That’s why support workers with eating disorder groups are concerned that with the sudden loss of peer support groups, treatment programs and therapists, many people on the road to recovery will return to self-destructive behavior.
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