Even as food banks nationwide are inundated with hungry Americans, many of the country’s farmers are dumping or destroying their harvests. Amidst a pandemic that has seen tens of millions of workers laid off, the nation’s food banks have struggled to cope with the surge in demand for their vital services.
In San Antonio, over 10,000 people lined up overnight in their vehicles in the hope of receiving a box of basic foods. “Needs have skyrocketed not just here but around the country,” one Washington, D.C. organizer told MintPress last week. Meanwhile, a veteran Louisiana food bank employee said the current situation is graver than it was after Hurricane Katrina. Food banks are going millions of dollars over budget trying to keep up with surging demand; one estimate suggests that one in three people seeking groceries at pantries last month had never done so before. Those who manage the facilities are worried that they will soon be completely drained of food.
Yet even as hunger rises, economics dictates that farmers across the country are dumping, discarding, or failing to harvest vital foods. Dairy farmers are pouring rivers of fresh milk down the drain every day. Pig farmers are slaughtering piglets en masse. Meanwhile, ripening fruits and vegetables are being left to wither and die on the vine or in the ground. The reason? “Demand” is falling greatly.
Of course, during a pandemic, the caloric needs of America are basically the same as before: we have all got to eat. The problem is that so much of the produce was predestined to be bought by businesses that have now closed due to the lockdown. Restaurants, universities, hotels, stadiums and many more popular eating locations are now shuttered, leading to a collapse in orders for many farmers. At the same time, there is an increased demand for supermarkets and food banks, leading to a situation where farms are full, but store shelves and bellies are increasingly empty. Re-routing interrupted supply chains is not easy, and many farms have not found new buyers willing to collect, transport and distribute their food.
A perfect encapsulation of this is an Idaho woman who went to her local farm yesterday and saw mountains of discarded potatoes, given away free to anyone who passed. Yet three days earlier she noted that her local food bank had fed more people in the last four weeks than it did in the whole of last year. Unfortunately, the current system is currently unable to make those ends meet.