Food shortages, supply chain issues, and shipping backlogs have been a recurring theme throughout this pandemic. What we are living through is a global supply chain under crisis. We are continuing to witness the limitations and capacity of a to-the-minute food system as we weather natural disasters, employee shortages, ingredient delays, and material backlogs.
Within these realities, the narrative of “us vs. them” tends to pop-up every now and then in the media. This is a relatively easy account to sink our teeth into, but this concept steers us in the wrong direction. Rather than question the root causes that led us to this point, we look to the person standing beside us demanding an answer: “why can’t I get strawberries in January?” And potentially adding the answer, “it’s because you bought them all up.” Seems a bit nonsensical when you really think about it, strawberries in January?
We need a new narrative that helps us understand why we are standing in front of empty shelves. Asking, what led us to this moment? Or examining why we are experiencing such high levels of global food insecurity and community food insecurity? Will our current system continue to struggle with more potential disruptions and challenges from climate change and future pandemics? A simple, all inclusive question could be: Is our food system working? Looking around at empty shelves, rising costs, and continuous delays - the answer seems simple, no.
Philip Loring, human ecologist at the University of Guelph, argues for a radical reimagining of our food systems from an industrial mindset to a relational one. Loring states that “a global food system that is both truly sustainable and sufficiently productive will consist, not of a few massively scaled practises, but rather a vast patchwork quilt of smaller scale solutions that vary dramatically from place to place, over space and over time, in an interplay with local climate, ecology and culture” (2022). More simply, shifting from global, to local.
These issues around global food shortages and product availability will long be with us into 2022. Bottlenecks throughout the supply chain, especially in food processing, have been identified as a major hurdle for our near future. But, with the inquisitions posed, why continue along the path that led us to stumble? Rather than continue with the status quo, like Loring suggests, we could ask: “Is this approach in harmony with the people and other living things in this region?” “Does it work with or against the goals and needs here?” We know how fragile our global food system is. What upcoming disaster, event, or issue will have us back blaming one another for empty shelves? It seems, now more than ever is the right time for new small-scale food processors to emerge in our local community. We at The Stir sure think so.
Local infrastructure for food processing allows locally grown food to be preserved, processed, and eaten on a year-round basis. It ensures our community is food secure throughout the year, despite global challenges. It reduces food miles, uplifts local farmers, adds jobs to our local economy, and increases our region’s biodiversity. Local food processing facilities strengthen the capacity of our local food system, help grow our food commons, and allow our community to have the infrastructure needed to be resilient in the face of uncertainty around global supply chains.
Building The Stir and other local food processing facilities and systems are small actions that truly create transformative change. Growing, processing, preserving, and marketing local food strengthens our entire community. It guides us towards an arguably better food system - one that is more secure and sustainable.
So while we continue to weather this storm together and face more shortages, let’s remember to ask the questions that guide us to a more stable path away from our unease and fear. Questions that evaluate the structures and processes of our food systems and help us better understand our realities and work towards a more sustainable and resilient future.
Local food processing matters, The Stir matters. If you’re interested in joining us in a deeper way, get in touch with our team to find out how you can get involved!
Reach out to our Food Hub Manager, Kent Fawcett today: firstname.lastname@example.org