The Devastation of International and Regional Food Supplies

Updated: Apr 5

Food Shortages During the COVID-19 Pandemic



The COVID-19 pandemic left millions around the world starving by damaging public health, harming international trade, and interfering with supply chains.


In the United States, 22 states have an above average amount of residents who are food insecure. The COVID-19 pandemic has created millions of food insecure Americans who previously had access to food (Ayesh). Many of these residents live in what is called a food desert: an urban area where affordable and fresh food is unavailable.


Stockpiling and unemployment has left residents without access to affordable groceries and without the money to afford expensive food. Food distribution centers have been established by some communities, but not enough to feed every resident left without food. For example, one distribution center in Chicago orders an average of 11,500 pounds of food, but the pandemic has forced them to order 40,000 pounds to feed the newly unemployed residents (Rockett).


In Los Angeles, over 400,000 meals were prepared by the Los Angeles Unified School District and passed out to families in need (Blume and Xia). There are about 2 million food insecure LA residents in regular circumstances, but the pandemic has increased this number due to the rise in unemployment. LA County has donated $3 million to the LA Regional Food Bank to help combat this issue (County of Los Angeles).


Meat processing facilities have had large breakouts of the virus, causing many to shut down. Closing one meat processing plant leads to losing 10 million servings of beef, so closing down these facilities has greatly contributed to the food shortage in affordable grocery stores (Quinn).


Internationally, many countries that previously had widespread hunger crises are suffering immensely, and the global food trade has been reduced. Over one hundred million people are facing acute food shortages – acute meaning that the shortages cannot be overcome with methods commonly used to fight them and that the danger is imminent and widespread (Dahir). By the end of 2020, an estimated 265 million people will be starving (Dahir).


Countries with widespread poverty, political instability, or weather concerns are the most at risk. Large urban centers in India have communities of impoverished people and migrant laborers surrounding the cities (Dahir). These people can no longer gain access to affordable food because of the shortages, and many have lost their jobs. These international shortages are due to a lack of international trade and an increase of tariffs (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). The tariffs make the imported food too expensive for marginalized people to afford, and the lack of international trade makes the shortages widespread.


Supply chains have been disrupted globally, making it especially difficult for countries lacking access to necessary resources.Papua New Guinea, for instance, relies on international trade for necessary goods like machinery and rice that they cannot produce themselves because of their climate, geography, and infrastructure.


According to world renowned modernist author, Virginia Woolf, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” While Woolf meant this as a comment on the importance of eating well at school, it holds true in more universal contexts. Setting incentives for grocery stores in food deserts and creating small, locally sourced markets will help lessen the impact of food shortages (National Research Council). In times of international strife, compassion and cooperation are the stepping stones to resolution.


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