by Bob Waldrop
First came the oil crisis, followed by the financial crisis. Will a food crisis be next? The conventional food industry is at risk of the various credit woes plaguing the industrial economy. Pilgrim’s Pride, the nation’s largest poultry producer, is on the verge of bankruptcy, but they can’t find debtor in possession financing for Chapter 11 (reorganization). They may thus be forced into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy where production stops and assets are liquidated. Large wholesale inventories could then be tied up in bankruptcy court. The financial press reports problems in arranging financing and payment for large international food trade shipments. I’m hearing news of shut-downs of poultry CAFOs along the east coast. If something does happen with the food system, just like the energy and financial crises, it will happen quickly and for most people, without warning.
Now is therefore a good time to review the seven elements of home and community food security:
(1) prepare meals from basic ingredients; (2) buy local foods; (3) grow some of your own food; (4) food storage; (5) home preservation of food; (6) eat with the season; (7) frugal supermarket shopping.
(1) Prepare meals from basic ingredients. Many, if not most, of us are short on time. Take-out or frozen supermarket entrees often seem like a good idea. But such “convenience” comes with a high cost – money, nutrition, and taste. My Better Times Almanac internet edition has lots of info about preparing meals from basic ingredients..
(2) Buy local foods. If we want a more sustainable, just, and humane agricultural system, there must be a market for the products of a sustainable, just, and humane agricultural system. Purchasing local foods does several good things: you get nutritious and healthy food that tastes very good, you help grow a local food system, and you support rural families and communities.
(3) Grow some of your own food. Gardening is less work than most people think, and is best compared to growing money in your back yard. Fall is the time to get ready for your spring garden.
(4) Food storage. Store what you eat and eat what you store. Keep some of your household savings in food – at least 3 months, and more is better. Besides food security, “investing” in food storage makes good economic sense. Grocery prices are fluctuating rapidly—food storage can insulate you from price-mood swings at the supermarket.
(5) Home preservation of food. Buy and grow extra vegetables, and preserve them for good eats during the winter. Contact your county extension office for scientific information about home food preservation.
(6) Eat with the season. Eating the same foods 365 days a year is actually a boring diet. As the seasons change, so should our menus. Summer greens are great for summer, but out-of-season greens are hauled long distances and produced with hazardous chemicals and poisons. During winter, look for innovative salads made from root crops and cool season veggies.
(7) Frugal supermarket shopping. The local food market at present is not big enough to supply all food here, so some supermarket shopping is necessary. Supermarkets, like casinos, are designed to separate you from your money. The more times you go to the store, the more money you will spend, so minimize shopping excursions. Always shop from a list, and beware of impulse buys. Eat before you shop. Carry a calculator with you and do the math (price per ounce, pound, quart, gallon, etc.) to ensure you get the best package size. Often, generic and store brands are as good, and sometimes better, than brand names. “Made in Oklahoma” brands support the local economy. The Best Choice, Always Save, and Clearly Organic label foods come from a cooperative of independent grocery stores, and that helps support a diverse local retail and wholesale food system. In Oklahoma these labels are typically available at the locally owned stores. See my article, “Winning at the Supermarket Casino,” for more ideas.
Family and community food security doesn’t just happen. If this is new to you, develop a plan and start making incremental changes on a set schedule to increase your family’s food security. If you have been working on a program like this for some time, keep up the good work! Remember what my grandmother Opal Cassidy used to say, “Y’all get the right eats, you hear?”