I’ve always been amazed at the wealth of options in the grocery store. Not just the sheer amount of products, but how reliably cheap most basics are. In some cases it even feels slightly ridiculous at the variety we have in our stores. It never ceases to amaze me that there’s an entire aisle just for chips. I get it, capitalism. But this abundance has given many people a false sense of food security.
Most people look at food security simply as access to food. It’s true, you walk into a grocery store like Winco, how could you not feel food secure? But what we fail to look at as consumers is where this food comes from. When we walk into Winco surrounded by thousands of cheap and accessible food products we don’t even think about the fact that all of this wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the trucks that drove them and the facilities and farms where they were produced.
It didn’t take long for this insecurity to become evident to consumers, as mid-March rolled around and suddenly grocery store shelves that had always been full were now empty. With the news of COVID, people immediately began panicking and stocking up on non perishable food. Suddenly products that I’d never before seen out of stock were wiped from the shelves. I couldn’t get rice, beans and flours for months. People were calling around to local bakeries to try and find all purpose flour.
This year has been one of exemplifying the weaknesses within our systems; health care, transportation, social justice and food. We take our access to food for granted without realizing our extreme dependency on external forces. If it weren’t for these farmers, factory workers and drivers our grocery store shelves wouldn’t be stocked. This chain is a weak one and easily broken by a slew of potential catastrophes (which 2020 has shown plenty of).
It seems that finally many people have awoken to this reality and are searching for ways to reconcile their own insecurity. One of the clearest ways I have seen this shift is my inability to find lids and bands for canning. Every summer I do a canning projects making pickles, jams and sauces and have never had a problem purchasing new lids and bands for my mason jars. I started looking for them at the same time I normally do, but they were sold out everywhere. I called store after store and even Amazon had them backed up for months.
It’s important to stay aware of the complicated food system in which we play a part, and the small ways, like canning and shopping at farmers markets, that give us a stronger foothold within it as consumers.
~And how about instead of clearing the shelves in a grocery store during a crisis, buy smaller amounts over a longer period of time, and keep a well-stocked pantry of non-perishables!