The impact of COVID-19 on the global scale has been devastating economically, politically, socially, and mentally. With the shutdown of indoor restaurants in many parts of the United States, farmers have seen a halt in production. According to the Problem of Waste, Food Waste: Ethical imperatives, and Complexities, the United States was already a global leader in food waste. With 80 billion pounds of food (40% of the United States food supply) going to landfills in the United States, COVID-19 definitely did not help this problem. Due to a sudden halt in production, farmers have seen incredible margin losses, turning into food waste. Farms and co-ops were sitting on unsold milk, poultry, hogs, vegetables, and other farm products that eventually became unable to sell on the market. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, rates of food insecurity have increased in comparison to previous years.
Feeding America describes “places that have relatively larger numbers of food insecurity before COVID-19 will continue to have relatively higher food insecurity, places that have relatively large numbers of food insecure people, will continue to have larger numbers of food-insecure-people, and places who have seen lower rates of food insecurity will see relatively larger numbers of food insecurity”. A large number of communities of color has seen increasing rates of food insecurity as opposed to white counterparts due to larger economic disparities backed by systemic issues of racism and discrimination at a policy level. Preliminary research from the Urban Institute reports that 27.1% of black households, and 27% of Latinx households experience food insecurity, in comparison to 13.5% of white counterparts.
With COVID-19’s impact on the food space through the food chain, the United States and companies like MEANS Database and Feeding America have risen to make policies, changes and commit themselves to helping all those who live in the United States, whether it be a farmer in Bakersfield, CA or a child living in Augusta, Maine. According to the American Bar Association, state programs have risen, dedicated to increasing farm to table production, eliminating waste. New York State’s former Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a Nourish New York Initiative which partners with Foodlink, a nonprofit organization, in order to provide food surplus to 11 counties in upstate New York.
Additionally, the United States Department of Agriculture has introduced the Farmers to Families Food box program. The USDA is able to purchase dairy, meat, and fresh produce from local and national supplies, who are paid to package the products into family sizes boxes. Those boxes are then able to be donated to different food banks, non-profit organizations, and faith-based organizations. Although the impact of COVID-19 has been incredibly damaging in the food space, people have risen together in order to further combat this, and shown incredible amounts of servitude, empathy, grace and compassion, something that after this pandemic, no one will ever forget.