Food waste heads higher, as does food insecurity, in the coronavirus era

Roughly 40 percent of all food produced ends up wasted, and now with coronavirus, it appears that the figure is going up – even while food insecurity is rising. So reports Elizabeth Royte in a FERN story with National Geographic, which digs into the bottlenecks that exist in our food system, especially when a huge portion of it shuts down.

With food hoarding by the home-bound, municipal compost operations say more food is getting tossed. Restaurants also had a huge immediate problem, once they were told to shut their doors or convert to take-out operations, which typically have smaller volume.

In the midst of this, produce farms big and small have been caught flat-footed, since customers have disappeared and some farmers markets closed down. “Farmers planned for their sales outlets months ago when they planted,” says Ben Feldman of the Farmers Market Coalition. “If their markets are forced to close and they can’t pivot to other sales outlets, that produce will rot in the field.”

Meanwhile, food banks are seeing donations from supermarkets dry up, at a time when demand for food aid is rising sharply.

But Royte pointed to a number of solutions. Home cooks can freeze what they can’t eat; restaurants have found ways to distribute their food to the needy; and food banks have had to establish new channels for donations. Nothing will happen quickly, especially with the landscape changing almost daily.