Climate Food Crisis and What We Can Do About it

We’re so lucky to live in the North State. Beautiful scenery. Forest all around, mostly unburned so far. Lucky to have pure water, most of the time. Lucky to have fully stocked grocery stores nearby with lots of organic choices. We are lucky to have underused farmland nearby.

However, storm clouds are gathering. In addition to the climate crisis, economic uncertainty, and political chaos, we face a double food threat. We are learning how our food supply is being impacted by floods, droughts and diseases. Added to this threat, our health is being impacted by the corporate food industry providing us with processed food high in sugar, fats, salt and chemicals. We may be aware, but it seems that there’s little we can do unless we change the ways we buy and prepare our food. Many of us won’t have to worry much because we’re old, but our children will face the challenges of the impending food crisis.

You do realize that about 96% of your food is trucked in from all over the globe. Mexico supplies 80% of your tomatoes and most of your avocados, for example. Huge amounts of imports come from #1 Canada (mostly grains), #2 Mexico (fruits and vegetables), #3 China (fish, apple juice, frozen peas and beans, honey). This makes you more vulnerable to global tariffs, droughts and floods.

So, what can you do?

Actually, not much. But there’s lots you can do about your food supply. You can take control of your own food.

Over the years, I have learned of many activities and programs that people and communities across America have started. Here are a few suggestions:

Individuals and Families, You can:

  1. Grow your own food: choose what you like best, what you could dry and can, what is easy and what does best in your garden. Grow food year-round, learn water saving and carbon sequestering methods, and how to improve the fertility of your soil. You can teach your kids and grandchildren as you learn how to grow your fruits and vegetables and learn how to take care of animals such as chickens. Learning may take years, so it’s best to start now with your house garden.
  2. Learn and teach cooking from scratch. This way you can use your own garden produce and use food bought in bulk, which saves money.
  3. Buy and store some basic food items, organic when available, such as grains, beans, oil, seeds, salt, honey, vinegar. Date and store enough for about three months, then use and re-supply items.
  4. Preserve food through canning, drying and freezing. (Freezers use electricity, so if you freeze large quantities, especially meat, have a backup electric generator.) Dried fruit and vegetables taste good for about a year if kept dry and cool. Canned fruit and tomatoes last years if done properly.

Community Wide Activities – City & County – You could:

  1. Help organize faith-based buying groups as food clubs, church gardens and church kitchens for processing food.
  2. Volunteer at neighborhood schools that have teaching gardens and help with lessons on how to buy food, cook fresh food for healthy diets and preserve seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  3. Work with schools to expand the school gardens so they can supply the school cafeterias. Lots of unused lawns could be converted into huge gardens. There are examples of schools contracting with local farmers to grow food on school grounds.
  4. Encourage cities to create more and bigger community/neighborhood gardens for those who don’t have yards. The cities could reduce water fees for food gardens. Also, they could start garden contests and give out awards for the most productive and beautiful gardens.
  5. Establish community shared-use kitchens (perhaps in churches) to help residents preserve food and for start-up enterprises to make value-added food items.
  6. Lobby to lengthen the calendar time of the Farmers’ Market so eventually it will be year-round.
  7. Suggest that the cities and county provide more food nutrition and health workshops.
  8. Establish community-run grocery stores for local farmers/ranchers to sell fresh food.
  9. Create a seasonal resource guide for finding and cooking with local fresh food.
  10. Develop a system to sell fresh food gift cards that could be redeemed at local stores.
  11. Organize community-wide agriculture to replace imported food with locally grown.
  12. Organize workshops on boosting soil fertility, water conservation, carbon-sequestering methods –mulching, cover-cropping, showing no bare ground, and leaving roots of dead plants in the ground.
  13. Start neighborhood gleaning systems to collect fruit from neglected trees and vegetables after the main harvest.

14. Create systems to reduce food waste in markets, restaurants and schools.

Food Politics:

  1. Vote with your fork: choose local & fresh over packaged food stuff. Buy organic for the health of your family.
  2. Court and support political leaders who share “local & fresh” ideals.
  3. Join one of the many organizations that are promoting healthy food at home and at school.

Now is the time to come together to discuss and plan how we can deal with this crisis. We can learn from many communities across America implementing ideas that will benefit local economies while increasing food security. Green belts, cooperative farming, tax incentives, and contract farming arrangements with cities are a few examples of these efforts. One way to start is to organize a conference of local farmers, ranchers, grocers, schools, farmers’ market organizers, and county and city officials to begin exploring local issues, to learn what other communities are doing, and start activities that will help improve the health of our communities.

“The climate is an ecological crisis, a global crisis, the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. If we don’t manage to cooperate, to work together despite our differences, then we will fail. … Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s do it now.” Greta Thunberg, Swedish teenager, August 30, 2019

All of these possibilities will take time, so let’s get started. I believe that we have a moral responsibility to help our children cope with the Climate Crisis by teaching them how to grow their food so they can be more resilient as they face the future.

Wayne Kessler

Following his grandfather's advice, "Grow food. People always need food," has led Wayne to a lifetime of cultivating and processing food. He spends much of his time encouraging people to become more food independent by growing their own.

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