COVID-19 Pandemic Reveals Vulnerability of Food System

GAIN has identified key areas of the food system that need to be addressed.
GAIN has identified key areas of the food system that need to be addressed.

April 13, 2020 — In a report by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the organization brings to light some of the biggest threats to the US food system and industry. There are some main areas that GAIN states provide the biggest concern which include income loss for the most vulnerable, higher food prices and hindered food production.

GAIN emphasizes that access to food has always been a main concern for members of the US population. How people get their food — and how they pay for it — is on people’s minds daily. This has not changed during the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, this has become a particularly growing threat as more and more people find themselves without jobs, especially those in the food industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered the doors of many food businesses, effectively rendering the staff working there jobless and without income. While there are support measures in place that workers can apply for, many workers are arguing that they just aren’t enough.

There is also a valid concern about higher food prices, which will continue to be driven up due to a variety of factors. To start, swaths of people purchasing and hoarding particular food items over the past few weeks has led to an increase in price volatility. This also ties directly into the income loss felt by many people; those in low-income (or no-income) households will continue to purchase household staples more frequently as they are generally cheaper and have longer shelf lives. These include items such as pasta, canned soups and stews, and frozen meals. Unfortunately, this shift has led to a dramatic decline in stock which has been having a direct impact on availability and prices.

Lastly, GAIN expressed concern about the disruption to food production systems due to COVID-19. In particular, farmers are vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. Farming relies on many workers to keep the food production high, but with many calling in sick due to COVID-19, the numbers are dwindling. There are also logistical issues that food production is struggling with; trying to produce large quantities of food to meet the growing demand while enforcing physical distancing is proving to be near impossible for many companies.

It is clear that everything in the food system is interconnected. From the people that produce the food, to the ones that sell it and those that consume it — the food industry is one that connects us all. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light how important and yet vulnerable this food system is. GAIN hopes that by addressing these vulnerabilities now, the food system and the industry as a whole can make changes to overcome these issues before it gets much worse.