As food pantries are struggling with unusually high demand, farmers are stuck with crops that no one wants to buy and are having to dump them. Billions of dollars worth of food is going to waste due to the coronavirus shutting down restaurants, schools, and hotels.
A few days ago, my neighbor told me the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival was canceled due to COVID-19, and this couldn’t come at a worse time for our farmers. This was their best crop ever. Fast forward a couple of hours later and I saw a tweet from Christiana Musk that echoed the conversation my neighbor and I had.
— Christiana Musk (@christianamusk) April 9, 2020
Louisiana farmers are part of a growing number of farmers whose crops will go to waste due to this virus. The Guardian reports that it’s not supply that’s the issue, but demand. There’s plenty of food, but the type of demand and moving it from farm to consumer has become a “new and urgent problem.” Add in the fact that food banks are handling record demand and grocery stores are unable to keep the shelves stocked.
Dairy farmers are dumping fresh milk. Preparing and packaging food for retail is suddenly this new and costly problem due to the loss of food service business. Kara Heckert, the regional director for the American Farmland Trust, told The Guardian, “A lot of the grocery stores are limiting how much milk people can buy, thinking it’s going to run out. There’s a disconnect there.”
The core problem is that while food is going to waste, food pantries are in dire need of food. And the food is going to waste because it is perishable. Food banks usually collect non-perishable food and really aren’t set up to store the massive amount of food that is going to waste — large amounts of perishable food.
The Chicago Tribune points out that farmers are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food — simply because they are unable to sell the food. This problem, sparked by COVID-19, was caused by the closing of restaurants, hotels, and schools. This left farmers with no one to buy more than half of their crops. Right now, the price of crawfish by the pound is extremely low due to the high number of fat ones, as we call them, while many restaurants are struggling to not go bankrupt.
Needless to say, the cost of food will go up and many families, especially the poor, could starve as these problems continue.
Featured photo by Carolyn Fortuna/CleanTechnica