UBC researcher looks at how COVID-19 has impacted food supply

Food security amid COVID

A UBC Okanagan researcher is uncovering the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on food insecurity in Canada. 

The realties of supply and demand are starting to hit Canadians in the wallet, says Joanne Taylor, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow at UBC Okanagan. 

International borders remain closed, some food processing plants are shut and local farms are struggling to find workers to replace migrant workers as the pandemic continues into August. 

Taylor's work examines the challenges faced by the agriculture industry while accessing water for food production during climate change scenarios, and says COVID-19 has significantly impacted food insecurity issues already present pre-pandemic.

She says the western diet dependence on meat and dairy and reliance on animal feed crops has struggled in light of the virus. 

"The current COVID-19 crisis has most affected meat and migrant workers. Canada imports about 45 per cent of its domestic food supply while being the fifth-largest food exporter in the world. Some BC communities export 95 per cent of its produce creating a reliance on California for its fruit and vegetables where drought and forest fires are also prevalent."

Taylor's research reveals the worst is yet to come, and she says people should be experiencing an adequate level of concern. 

"We should be genuinely concerned since the ability to be food secure is tied to personal financial ability to purchase food. As we are seeing, many social and environmental calamities are currently affecting not only our food supply but job security in the time of COVID-19—resulting in a decreased ability to purchase food. Increased food prices necessarily place further pressure on our personal or family budgets, creating scenarios where families may be in food-deprived situations."

Learning how to grow food in our own backyards as well as supporting local can make a positive difference, says Taylor.

"It has never been more important to buy locally-produced food to support farmers and our communities. And as Canadians, we should never take fresh food and water for granted."


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