The Breakdown of the American Food System Under COVID-19

While the American food system has always had its faults, with 37 million Americans going hungry, the outbreak of COVID-19 has shed even more light on the failure of our food system. Since the beginning of pandemic, we have seen footage of farmers throwing away perfectly good produce and dumping cow’s milk because the schools and restaurant they typically sold to were closed. While unfortunate for these restaurant owners and school staff, it’s not like all that food can’t be used. With so many people out of work during this shutdown, food has become even more difficult to come by for some families, and soup kitchens and food pantries have experienced a massive increase in people that need their help.


This begs the question: why are we pitching so much viable food when so many people are in need? The answer is in the distribution. World hunger is not a product of a planet inadequate of providing enough food, but rather global systems that are inadequate of distributing the food to everyone who needs it. If we consider that 30-40% of all food produced is wasted each year, its amazing that there are so many people who go without. While this pandemic has been disastrous for so many families, it has shown everyone how broken our food system is when we see all this food dumped with nowhere to go.


So how do we fix this problem on an individual level? Reducing your own food waste is the best way to do so. If everyone only bought what they actually eat, and ate everything they bought, we could reduce food waste tremendously. One of the biggest leaders in produce waste is “ugly produce.” Farmers have no choice but to throw away produce that does not meet cosmetic standards in grocery stores. Fortunately, there are several companies that work against this by shipping boxes of ugly produce straight to your door.


While paying attention to your own food waste is extremely important, this problem is found deeper in the way our system works. This massive system needs massive change. There needs to be more awareness about food systems on a larger scale and there needs to be some sort of pipeline to deliver all of this wasted food straight from the farm to all those in need. If everyone becomes more aware of the hunger epidemic and the truth that we actually do have the necessary food for everyone, we can effect serious change towards the livelihoods of so many people not just in the U.S., but also around the world.