A Coronavirus Food Crisis?
Farmers are scrambling to work with grocery and other retailers as they try to redistribute the food that would have normally been supplied to restaurants, schools and other coronavirus-related shuttered businesses.
According to the Miami Herald, many farmers in Florida, for example, are now stuck with crops that should have been going to restaurants, cruise ships, school cafeterias, airlines and even theme parks.
“It’s catastrophic,” Tony DiMare, vice president of the third-generation-owned DiMare tomato company, told the Miami Herald. “It’s a dire situation, and there’s no relief in sight.”
DiMare told the Herald that by the end of the growing season about 10 million pounds of his tomatoes will go unpicked.
Some other Florida farms, like Pero Family Farms, have been able to reroute specialty produce, such as sweet mini peppers and organic salads, to grocery retailers who are demanding more than usual because many people are now cooking at home. But many more farms have been unable to sell their crops.
In addition to these supply chain problems, farmers are finding their labor practices disrupted because of the pandemic, whether it's COVID-19-infected workers or foreign-born strawberry pickers unable to enter the United States to pick due to border closures.
On Monday, Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, said the group is working to keep the fresh produce supply chain moving and to drive financial relief for those most affected by this crisis.
"We continue every effort possible to drive new sales of produce – from retail to consumers, from foodservice to retailers, schools and food banks," Stenzel said in a statement. "Growers everywhere are bringing produce forward to feed America, and we need distribution to get these foods into homes and stomachs. This is about America’s health, as well as America’s hunger! Some of that will include new USDA funding, and some will find its way into new partnerships needed to feed Americans"