Tuesday, May 19, 2020
From face masks to toilet paper, the pandemic means the supply of certain products has not been able to meet demand. One resource under newfound strain is of particular importance: food.
While there is almost no evidence of a food shortage, the coronavirus is challenging our food systems in peculiar ways.
One problem is, ironically, of abundance. Nationally, dairy farmers are dumping out as many as 3.7 million gallons every day while many hog farmers with reduced staff are being forced to cull thousands of pigs. Because of restaurant and factory closures, demand for certain foods have dropped and some farmers now have a surplus they can’t sell.
At the same time, some meatpacking plants have been forced to stay open, despite becoming COVID-19 hotspots.
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program was recently signed into law, providing $16 billion in payments to farmers and ranchers and $3 billion of food to be distributed at food banks.
Simultaneously, the Trump administration is pushing to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
Locally, CSA membership is surging and farmers markets in Mecklenburg County are deemed an essential service. Many farmers are seeing this as an opportunity to display the vitality of local, community supported agriculture.
Still, food banks are experiencing unprecedented demand as joblessness and a struggling economy has made food too expensive to purchase, at a CSA or otherwise.
We talk to a panel of local officials and experts on what is being done to maintain our food systems and make sure everyone can get dinner on the table.
Abigail Wyatt, food security coordinator for Mecklenburg County
Kay Carter, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina
Zack Wyatt, executive director of Carolina Farm Trust