We recently covered the potential of a future food shortage in the US brought on by low planting rates of key crops such as corn and soybeans following major flooding in the Midwest. However, this weather disaster-induced shortage is just one of many factors currently affecting food security in the United States.
In 1996, The World Food Summit defined food security as existing “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life.”
From physical to human-influenced factors, there are many forces that affect our global food supply, access, and quality. And when there is less food available, prices increase--which has been happening every year since 2000. Taking the time and attention to better understand the factors affecting food security will enable you to better prepare for situations where food may be hard to come by.
In this post, I’m going to give you an idea of several of these factors--five, to be exact--that contribute to diminished food security. From there, I’ll provide advice on how to prepare for situations in which your access to food has been minimized.
#1: Weather Patterns
Our ability to grow food is extremely dependent on climatic conditions, from the amount of rainfall to temperature. For example, earlier this year we saw how changing weather patterns and persistent flooding in the Midwest led to all-time low corn planting rates.
Whether you live in a third-world or first-world country, our food supply is at the mercy of Mother Nature, from fluctuating temperatures to natural disasters. The BBC illustrates this point in reporting that, “Countries such as Russia and Australia are huge exporters of wheat and barley respectively. When they suffer drought there is less food available globally and global food prices increase.”
Keeping an eye on weather patterns and major climatic events such as droughts will give you the necessary foresight to predict potential food shortages and delays.
#2: Soil Degradation
In order to successfully plant and harvest crops, farmers need good-quality soil. If soil is unhealthy, it doesn’t contain the right amount and type of nutrients needed to aid crop growth. According to The Guardian, one-third of global soils are degraded because of soil erosion, salinity, nutrient depletion, and pollution, ultimately leading to systemic problems in our food quality and access.
A recent UN report revealed that over 1.3 billion people who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods are farming degraded land. Fortunately, our country is taking key steps to protect the health of our soil. The Secretary for the US Department of Agriculture shared that soil health is a priority and the department has invested in programs related to the issue.
#3: Water Stress
In addition to healthy soil, farmers need water to grow their crops--not to mention raise livestock. In fact, the United Nations reported that agriculture is the biggest user of water around the globe, with irrigation requiring close to 70% of all freshwater appropriated for human use.
However, our world doesn’t necessarily have an endless supply of water, and with the global population expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, even more people will be forced to share this limited resource. Groundwater levels are decreasing, and simultaneously, we are seeing rivers and lakes drying up. According to Danish research center Danwatch…
- Four billion people--two-thirds of the world’s population--are currently affected by water scarcity.
- Experts say that water scarcity will be one of the greatest challenges to future food security.
Unfortunately, even though we know water stress is a real problem, we’re currently wasting a lot of the water we use. The United Nations reports that “Roughly 30% of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted every year, which means that the water used to produce it is also wasted.” Learning to conserve the water we use at home and in industry will be key to improving our state of food security.
#4: Pests and Diseases
According to TIME, at the moment, only 12 crops account for 75% of all human calories. Whenever these crops are compromised by pests and diseases, our food system is greatly affected. And unfortunately, with factors such as globalization, trade, and weather events, incidences of pests and pathogens have risen. Pests such as locusts, armyworms, and fruit flies can ruin crops. On the disease front, farmers need to worry about things like banana diseases, wheat leaf rust, and cassava diseases.
#5: Loss of Farmland for Growing Food
As with water and soil, the availability of arable land is also an essential component to growing and producing food. One of the biggest reasons behind the loss of farmland for growing food in recent years is the increasing demand for biofuel. This market is taking up valuable farmland typically used to grow food and raise livestock. Additionally, even the crops themselves are being diverted to other uses aside from food. Environment Reports wrote that “roughly 9 percent of global crops are currently used to produce biofuels or other industrial products.”
Now that I’ve shared an overview of these five major factors influencing food security, it’s time to get strategic and prepare for diminished access to food systems and resources of the past.
How to Prepare
Remaining dependent on external food production systems is a surefire way to end up in a tricky and difficult situation. Keep the following three tips in mind, and increase your own family’s food security situation in the coming months...
#1: Grow your own food: Relying on an external food system will never guarantee you complete peace of mind. However, growing your own produce at home is one effective way to take control and ensure continued and sustainable access to food. If you have room in your yard to create a garden, great. Better yet, if you have the outdoor space, consider purchasing and raising chickens for a constant supply of eggs.
However, if you live in a city and don’t have an outdoor space to plant fruits and vegetables, not to worry. With the right equipment, you can still grow certain fruits and vegetables indoors.
#2: Preserve your food: Growing your own food is one thing, but making sure your food lasts is another. Canning, pickling, and freezing are all effective methods to ensure your food supply lasts longer than its typical expiration date. Take the time now to learn how to preserve your food (whether you grow it or not), and get a head start on stocking up on a supply of food that won’t spoil.
#3: Stock up on nonperishable food supply: In addition to creating your own supply of nonperishable foods, you can also stock up on multiday or multiweek supplies of emergency foods. From food supply chain disruptions and shortages to natural disasters, you will rest easy knowing you have this extra layer of essential food supply.
Don’t wait before it’s too late--use the tips and suggestions included here today.
Stay alert and safe this weekend, friends!
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply