Food Shortage Concerns Rising Across America
During our lifetimes, we've heard about many food concerns. Such as E. coli contaminations resulting in recalls.
We've also seen plenty of rising food prices. The amount of groceries accounts for larger and larger percentages of our budgets these days.
Unfortunately, we've also seen price gouging during and following emergencies such as the current pandemic.
One thing we've been spared from – for the most part – has been food shortages. The food supply chain has remained pretty reliable, through good times and bad.
Task Force Raises Questions
But that may change soon. According to a Trump Administration task force document obtained by Yahoo News, the U.S. could begin to see food shortages.
So far, the only shortages most of us have seen – pasta, bread, meat, eggs, etc. – have occurred due to panic and hoarding.
Here's what U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
"I want to assure you that our food supply chain is sound. It's healthy. People are on the job, stocking those stores, processing that food. Our inspectors are safely guarding that food."
Will Food Workers Be Protected?
But what if those workers become infected or don't work with the coronavirus because they lack personal protective equipment (PPE)? Including gloves and facemasks?
The document, dated April 2, is called "Senior Leadership Brief COVID-19." Seals on the document include those of FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
It contains findings made by the Food Supply Chain Task Force. They include a focus on the availability of PPE.
The findings warn there could be "commodity impacts if current PPE inventory is exhausted."
These Foods Will Disappear First
How will potential food shortages manifest themselves if PPE runs out and the supply chain is affected? Here's what the document says.
- There would be shortages of fruits and vegetables within a few days.
- There would be milk shortages within 24 hours.
- Meat, poultry, seafood and processed eggs would be scare in 2 to 4 weeks.
- Non-perishable dry goods and some processed foods would run out after four weeks.
Panic is the Main Culprit
Even if food supply chain workers get enough PPE and stay healthy, there are other food issues at hand.
Panic is one of them. Some grocery store shelves are empty because of this. Not because there is a shortage of what people need.
But rather because a disproportionate amount of it is sitting in homes where people have needlessly hoarded it.
Gail Hayden is director of the California Farmers' Markets Association. She said, "There's no shortages, just overbuying. And then there's a lag filling up the supplies in the traditional system."
Food Producers Struggling
Another issue involves food producers having to adapt to a changing landscape.
Many places that used to receive regular food deliveries have closed. Such as grade schools, high schools, colleges and some restaurants.
Now farmers are dumping millions of gallons of milk. Watching crops die. And turning fresh vegetables into mulch.
Many food producers are looking for ways to take what they used to give to restaurants and schools, and give it to retail outlets.
Partnerships Are Forming
Some food service giants, such as Sysco and U.S. Foods, are partnering with supermarket chains like Kroger.
This gives those food service groups the ability to hand off their food. It also helps keep grocery stores stocked. And it keeps people employed.
But this type of arrangement does not help every food provider. For others, there are many logistical hurdles to overcome.
And that's a big problem because Americans exhausted more funds on food from full-service and fast food restaurants than they did at grocery stores and warehouse clubs in 2018.
The Return of 'Victory Gardens'
One thing some Americans are doing to try to offset current and potential future food shortages is planting gardens in their yards.
It's reminiscent of the 20 million "victory gardens" planted in America during World War II. The idea actually began during World War I, but resurfaced in the Forties.
These days, some people are doing it again. They're concerned about breakdowns in the food supply chain. Many have more time for gardening now due to layoffs.
Of course, this has been a big boost to seed companies. People looking for food security are acquiring seeds for their gardens.
Here a Chick, There a Chick
It's logical that certain food items are more difficult to find during a pandemic. But baby chicks?
Tom Watkins is vice president of Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. He says, "People are panic buying chickens like they did toilet paper."
These are people who have more time on their hands due to enforced or self-quarantining. They want to make sure they have eggs and chicken to eat going forward.
One woman who recently bought chicks told the New York Times, "It just seems like having a steady food source is a good idea right now."
The Answer to Food Shortages? Become Self-Reliant!
So, will the food supply chain become disrupted due to the health crisis? If so, will that mean food becomes scarce?
Nobody knows for sure. But it makes sense to pray for the best and prepare for the worst.
The best way you can remain self-reliant is to have the ability to feed yourself and your family.
Take the steps now and have peace of mind for your family.