Food Security, Climate Change, and COVID – Food Security and Covid (Reading)

Required Reading: Climate Change and Food Security in the Future

Anticipated Time Commitment: 30 Minutes

Please view the following Video and Radio interviews for a total of 10 minutes.

I was interviewed by the University of British Columbia’s media which was then picked up by various media sources who interviewed me for television, online e-news stations, radio, and print. Please listen to or read the following media reports about Covid and Food Security and what the effects of Covid have had on prices, beef, migrant workers, food security and how food producers have adapted in this global pandemic. At the end of this list of media reports is a list of extra readings which you do not need to read. And following this are some statistics about Covid.

UBCO researcher looks at food security during COVID-19: 

We should be ‘genuinely concerned’ about food supply, UBCO researcher warns:

UBC Okanagan researcher says Canadians too dependent on imported foods: 

Food security amid COVID 

Kamloops Radio Station NL 610 AM Stingray Live Interview:

Calgary Radio Station 660 NEWS Live Interview:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Kelowna iNFONews Interview:

Williams Lake Tribune Newspaper:


Further Readings – Not required: and 

These articles look at food system resilience and COVID-19. There is a lot of content out there that tries to argue that resilient food systems should be local, usually associated with some association that would gain if that were the case. However, resilience is about how a system recovers from a shock. Cutting off a subsystem from the larger system – local production of food for local consumption – makes that subsystem more vulnerable. All else equal, a global food system is more resilient than a local one. The food system adapted to COVID-19 very well. There were few shortages that were based on production and distribution issues. The shortages we experienced were largely because of consumer fears and the resultant hoarding. There are some very widely circulated stories of crops rotting in the fields, etc. (slick videos with interviews of suffering farmers, …), but in large part those are exceptions. Food prices have not changed much, food trade has not changed much. The global food system adapted very well.

Notes and Markers of Food Insecurity and Covid:


Climate Change:
  • 350 ppm C02 safe upper limit—now at 415 ppm!
  • Mean temperatures increased 0.8 c (1.4F) since 1980
  • 10-15% staple yield reduction for every 1C increase
  • Because of these temperatures will increase 6C (11F) by 2100
  • The World will face irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions much like the Dust Bowl era
  • Climate change will undoubtedly exacerbate the unsustainability of the global industrial food system
Climate change likelihood of shock aftershock to the global industrial food system:
  • reduced yields – a physiological response
  • Water shortages
  • Soil erosion and desertification
  • Sea encroachment
  • Increased occurrence of novel catastrophic pest infestation
  • Increased frequency of extreme weather
  • Loss of major production regions
Agriculture is inextricably linked to water supply…which climate change is affecting:

Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s freshwater supply. We are tapped out. The world is farming all the land there is to farm…and we can’t create more.

Agriculture contributes 10-15% of global GHGs…the entire agri-food system, estimated at 35%

We have to get off of Animal cropping and animal feed, and animal agriculture

Agriculture is tied to poverty:

767 million people live in extreme poverty mostly within rural areas of fragile countries where the rural poor are dependent upon agriculture for their livelihoods

815 million people were hungry and food insecure in 2016.

  • In B.C., 20.4 percent of children in B.C. aged 0 – 17 years, live below the poverty line according to Statistic Canada’s LIM (First Call 2017).
  • Having the highest provincial record in Canada, one in five children (over 167,810 in B.C. and the highest number in the 0-5 age group – 20.7 percent) grow up in poverty.
  • Children 0 – 5 are at the most vulnerable age for proper brain development, so it is critical that their daily food and nutrition needs are met (McCain and Mustard 1999).
Food Insecurity Globally:
  • We are producing more food and feeding more people than ever before: enough grains, fruits, vegetables, meat for 3,200 calories per day and yet:
  • 5 million children die annually from nutritional deficiency
  • 5 billion people are overfed (mostly from western diets)
  • the number of people experiencing some form of food deprivation has more than doubled, to a total of approximately 2 billion people globally
  • The current food crisis is due to many factors ranging from a shift to growing biofuels, rising oil prices, financial market instability, and increasing control of the food supply by industrial, agricultural corporations (Sonnino and Hanmer 2016).
Food Security in Canada:
  • 2% of Canadian households are food insecure
  • In Canada, the most marginalized are First Nations, Metis, and Innuit. Single mothers with children and the elderly.
Food Insecurity in BC:

B.C.’s population is estimated to increase from 4.5 to 5.9 million by 2036.

Food exports and imports in BC:

BC produces almost $3 billion of food annually about half of that is exported or about $1.6 billion annually

Approximately half of B.C. food is imported from other provinces in Canada and other nations such as the U.S.A.

  • whereas 55 percent of fruit – primarily from California – was imported from the States,
  • eight percent from Mexico and Ecuador, seven percent from China, and six percent from
  • The remaining 13 percent came from 30 other

B.C. is most dependent on its import of fruits and vegetables. In 2007 according to Industry Canada (2009), B.C. imported 70 percent of vegetables not only from the U.S. but 17 percent from Mexico and seven percent from China,

Food Wastage:
  • 10% of cherries go overseas of one farmer in the Okanagan 40% local market
  • 50% goes into the compost due to imperfections. Losing 50% of his income.
  • He must pay to have these cherries hauled away.
  • SunRype buys all their concentrate from China and so will not buy his local seconds. MORALLY WRONG!
  • During Covid, it will be just as bad!
  • Let’s get government action. We can get this food into food deserts for example.


PANDEMIC Vulnerabilities to system shocks revealed due to the Pandemic:

Exposed weaknesses:
  • Labour shortages, lack of technologies such as indoor greenhouses
  • Nations retreated from the global system, curtailed food exports
  • A concentration of slaughterhouses and packing plants were closed
  • Because of Rigid supply chains, link failures resulted in waste and shortages
  • The economic status of farmers/ranchers suffered
  • Economically marginalized populations were more vulnerable
  • General lack of nimble adaptability, little resilience evidenced
  • “The whole food system is precarious,” “It’s very “
  • Dependence on temporary foreign workers
  • Canada relies on tens of thousands of migrant workers — and open borders. Canada grows mostly commodities on an industrial scale to feed animals, make biofuels, or for export. The majority of the fruits and vegetables in Canadian grocery stores came from outside of the
BC Pandemic impacts:
  • More in lower-income groups, very or extremely difficult to access food And the Wealthier are less likely to notice food price increase
  • 11% increase in online food shopping
  • 42% reported eating more junk foods and less access to fresh fruits and vegetables
  • More than 30% are worried about food insecurity if the pandemic continues 61% expressed concern about the reliability of the global food system
  • 87% want the government to support the building and strengthening of our regional food systems
Alberta Pandemic impacts:
  • The Cargill beef plant in High River, Alta. Months before it became the site of North America’s largest COVID-19 outbreak, people were warning about the insecurity of Canada’s food system. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
  • Two plants in Calgary process about 70% of Canada’s beef Slaughterhouses forced to close. Alberta pushed to create an uninspected slaughter operation
  • BC farmers push to follow suit.

Dairy farmers are dumping milk. There are no markets since restaurants, schools, and stores, and stay-at-home orders have been put in place. Grapes I heard are also being dumped.

Good News in BC for small scale farmers: In BC:

Smaller scaled, community focused farmers, ranchers and other food system actors demonstrated nimble and rapid ability to respond:

…ramped up production, feeding more families

…innovated/expanded mechanisms to facilitate direct marketing

…seed suppliers etc. also ramped up

People quickly adopted alternate procurement means i.e. direct marketing, new outlets, bulk buying, etc.

Baking surged

Offers new opportunities for farm direct marketing and online orders Must diversify

KPU, Farm Folk City Folk and UBC open letter to the government

So, all of this Begs the question:

What kind of agriculture and food system will offer the greatest mitigation opportunities and most likely confer the greatest level of adaptability and resilience?

The majority of farmers are struggling, while a small number of multinational companies made handsome profits.

The answer should not be driven by transnational food and fossil fuel interests.

We need to local at social justice issues and food sovereignty paradigms. We need transformative change to our food system.


One further article that is worth reading only if you have time. It gives a balanced view of whether our global food supply is really that bad if we are not changing our eating habits first.

Social Life Cycle Assessment: State of the Art and Challenges for Supporting Product Policies: 

Well-being is considered one of the main development goals of modern society. Assessing what could improve well-being and what may undermine it is a key element in public policies, looking at social benefit and impacts. Cultural elements, different values, and lifestyles affect the way social issues are perceived. Moreover, social impacts along supply chains are increasingly assessed by different stakeholders, such as government, business, and NGO’s. Life cycle-based methodologies have been developed to assess environmental impacts along supply chains, from the extraction of raw materials to the end of life of products. Social life cycle assessment (SLCA) integrates traditional life cycle assessment by having social aspects as the focus. In fact, sustainability assessment requires that environmental, social, and economic impacts and benefits are taken into account. The present report aims at presenting: i) the state of the art in Social Life Cycle Assessment, illustrating the main theoretical and methodological elements under discussion in the scientific domain. ii) overlaps and synergies with traditional Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) towards a common framework; iii) examples of application at macro-scale (EU- 28) and at sector scale (Metal sector) of a set of indicators.


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Food & Water Security Copyright © by Dr. Joanne Taylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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