Monday, May 18

The food supply crisis isn't new. It's just Americans are now noticing it.

"The world may not actually be wasting more than normal, when a third of global food production ends up in landfills. ... Before the pandemic, an estimated $1 trillion of food production ended up lost or wasted." 

The quotes are from a report today at Bloomberg headlined Smashing Eggs, Dumping Milk: Farms Waste More Food Than Ever. But a big point in the report is that it's not possible at this stage of the dumping to know whether the waste is more than before the pandemic. 

In any case, the enormous waste generated by the way food is produced and sold wasn't obvious to Americans until the situation hit them personally because of  lockdowns in response to the pandemic:
What’s changing now is that rather than being thrown out by consumers as kitchen waste, an unprecedented amount of food is getting dumped even before making it into grocery stores.
Another point in the report is that despite the incredible amount of food produced on a global basis, this doesn't mean it's getting to all the people who need it.

I think people in other countries would be shocked to learn that millions of older Americans have gone hungry for years before Covid-19 appeared. As to how this could have happened in the world's hyperpower nation is a long story, which TIME magazine described in detail last August. But part of the story is that for decades U.S. government food programs focused on children. Many poor, older Americans got lost in the shuffle.

Last year the U.S. Congress made an effort to address the situation, as TIME explained, but the legislation wasn't signed into law until March 31 of this year. And the help from increased programs to feed the elderly may fall very short of what is needed.

So despite the mountains of food produced and shipped in this highly globalized trade era, many people are indeed going hungry.    

As to the immediate crisis -- the executive director of a nonprofit focused on reducing food waste told Bloomberg that a good deal of pandemic-induced food dumping in the U.S. is due to supply-chain disruptions because of "the rigidity of our food system -- highly specialized processing plants" that make food for restaurants and can’t redirect their products to grocery stores.

They'll have to learn to redirect, but you can always produce more food. That's provided you have the water to produce it with. Every bit of food used or dumped represents water, which is termed virtual water. Everything we use represents virtual water. But the thing about virtual water is that once the water is used to make something, it can't be converted back to water.

When you consider that every manufacturing, growing, and  shipping process uses water, the trillion dollars in wasted food production is a drop in the bucket next to the amount of water wasted just by our current systems of food production and food exports.

So where do we go from here? [shrugging] We radically alter the way we do things or we die off as a race.  


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