OPINIONFresh Food

COVID-19 Has Revealed How Fragile Our Food System Is

Panic buying in supermarkets is one sign Americans are worried

The Lempert Report

Our friend, professor Marion Nestle, Goddard chair of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, offers a sobering assessment to the Huffington Post: “That the food system is failing is a given.”

Her frank, always honest and fact-based learnings during the interview should make everyone in the food industry sit up and listen carefully.

She points out that Americans are worried about food, many for the first time in their lives. While the U.S. government has said there are no nationwide shortages, that hasn’t stopped panic buying in supermarkets as coronavirus cases continue to tick upward.

Tom Levitt of the Huffington Post asked her, "You’ve been collecting evidence on the impact of the coronavirus on food. What stands out so far for you?"

Her answer: "Every single part of the food system is affected by [the pandemic], starting from production and where we are going to get people to harvest food if they’re not allowed to be near each other or come into the country."

She also asks, "And then transportation and distribution? Who’s doing the home delivering? And how are the people working in stores staying safe and stopping themselves from infecting others if they have the virus? "

We’re seeing the shelves empty of certain kinds of products, and that’s going to increase because people are still hoarding food and it’s difficult for the stores to keep up with the demand. Restaurants are closed and going out of business and leaving staff unemployed. 

She said, that the food system failing is a given: witness hunger and food insecurity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, the impact of industrial agriculture on the environment, and gross inequalities among people involved in food production and consumption. The Coronavirus, Nestle says, reveals these usually invisible inequalities.

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