At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, empty supermarket shelves prompted people to ask – sometimes for the first time – where their food comes from. In 2021, we will see more food in cities provided by producers who are less vulnerable to the disruptions of long supply chains we experienced during 2020.
The pandemic caused consumers around the world to turn to smaller, local and regional food providers that could secure access to food during lockdowns. In the UK, the Farmers to Feed Us digital platform created new ways for small-scale food producers to provide fresh produce directly to consumers.
Sales of food from community-supported agriculture (CSA), where consumers subscribe to receive in-season harvests from groups of UK farmers, increased by 111 percent from February to April, with this trend also being apparent in the US and China. The 105-acre Eatwell Farm in California saw such a big spike in demand that it had to cease new subscriptions – and the waiting list is still growing. These demonstrate how producers can provide consumers with food security and, in return, how consumers have supported their businesses.
At the same time, accessing food hasn’t been easy for everyone. Countless people around the world have been forced to turn to food donations. Meanwhile, when restaurants, schools and workplaces closed, food producers were hit with a lack of demand that saw tonnes of edible food go to waste. As income for smaller farmers was supported by consumer demand, a decline in business from food-service providers has made their futures uncertain.
With the food system’s vulnerabilities exposed, the question has become: how can we better connect communities and food producers to make sure we are more resilient to future shocks? In 2021, the relationship between food and our cities will be drastically reimagined to answer this question.
Read more at Wired (Ellen MacArthur)