Crisis Could Result in a More Sustainable Food System

The food system, from supply to distribution and consumption, is undergoing a rapid transformation. Community supported agriculture could potentially benefit.

May 12, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Urban Agriculture

Alice Henneman / Flickr

"From California to Maine, the movement known as community supported agriculture (CSA) is booming," according to an article by Eric Westervelt. 

A soundbite puts an exclamation on this point:

"In all the time that we've worked with CSAs, which is several decades, we've never seen a surge as quickly as we have of the last few weeks," said Evan Wiig with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, which supports and lobbies on behalf of CSAs across California.

Westervelt's coverage of the growth of CSAs contracts other narratives about risks emerging in the food system, both in terms of supply and distribution, that have emerged during the pandemic. The headline for an article by Kevin Rector, for instance, reads as follows: "Rotting food. Hungry masses. Chaotic supply chains. Coronavirus upends the U.S. food system."

Another article, by Adam Clark Estes for Recode, explains why the American meat shortage is much more serious than Wendy's asking, "where's the beef?" (the jokes on Twitter wrote themselves when news of a meat shortage at the fast food chain made the rounds earlier this month). The effects of the coronavirus on the U.S. food system could have lasting impacts for years, writes Estes:

This context should put your missing hamburger into perspective. The plight of these workers is just the starting point in a chain of crises the coronavirus is creating in America’s food supply. The shuttered meatpacking plants have created a bottleneck in the system through which most meat in the United States must flow in order to get ground beef to Wendy’s, chicken breasts to your local grocery stores, bacon to the nearby diner now trying to run a takeout business, and so on.

With such dire warnings and near-panic seeping from most stories about the U.S. food system, a "heydey for CSAs," as it's called in Westervelt's article, could be considered a silver lining.

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