American farmers are dumping billions of dollars of food including milk, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables each week. They are euthanizing livestock and plowing perfectly viable crops and yet food banks are serving an unprecedented number of hungry people and grocery shelves are sparsely filled. In many stores, eggs, meat, and poultry are in short supply.
This head-scratching dilemma boils down to how our food supply chain has been structured for decades, says Fox News.
“A large portion of our food is now produced for restaurants, hotels, schools, and institutional users, about 50%. Those markets have effectively closed up, and there is not enough demand for home use now,” Dan Glickman, executive director of the Aspen Institute and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture told Fox News. “Nor is the supply chain set up for this rapid transformation.”
The United Fresh Produce Association says its members are losing up to $1 billion each week.
“Before the pandemic, U.S. consumers purchased about a third of their calories and spent over half of their food dollar on food consumed outside the home---restaurants, fast food, schools, work cafeterias, etc.,” said Dr. Douglas Jackson-Smith, a professor at the School of Environment and Natural resources at Ohio State University. “The closure of these outlets and stay-at-home orders have radically changed where most Americans buy and consume their food, and the supply chains have been slow to recognize and respond.”
As devastating images of farmers having to kill their livestock and destroy crops haunt us, Feeding America says that food banks have experienced a 70% uptick in demand. The organization has banded with The American Farm Bureau to propose a voucher system that would allow food banks to work directly with farmers to provide food for the millions of newly unemployed who now flood their doors, according to CNN.
The voucher system would send farm products to food banks while helping farmers and ranchers recoup their cost from lost markets.
That would be one way to prevent such a devasting loss of food in the future. According to Fox News, another change needed is to de-centralize food supply chains so that we have more regional suppliers to provide local grocery stores with food in a timely manner.
“Four companies control 70 percent of meat production,” says Glickman. We no longer have a decentralized food production process, at least not to the extent of 30 years ago.”
Keiko Tanaka, a professor of Rural Sociology at the University of Kentucky told Fox News:
“In order for our food products to be quickly rechanneled when a segment of the food chain breaks, a mix of diverse sizes and types of farms, processing plants, and distributors must be included in each regional supply chain.
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