Part 15: When & how do we prepare for future food shortages & scarcities?

When should we prepare for a crisis? The answer is always now.

We’re still in response mode regarding the impact of Covid on our food supply system, with some elements of recovery. But nowhere do we see any preparedness for future shortages and scarcities.

Indeed, what does food system preparedness look like?

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On 10th January, the Guardian ran an article about how to solve the UK energy crisis — by storing more.The same is for any resource, including food, as illustrated in this edited version of the Guardian headline:

So if to be better prepared, we need to store more food, and in our just-in-time (JIT) supply system, what are the challenges:

Surplus production is wasteful. Most fresh produce rots quickly. Preservation processing costs, and we have little infrastructure on the UK mainland for it. Storage facilities are costly to set up and run. Taking products out of the market place means lost revenue.

We set up a project to explore possible scenarios through workshops with sector professionals and others in the know.

To their, and our surprise, they met these challenges head-on, outlining what a distributed buffer contingency stock system depended on: (1)

And what such a scenario could look like — a rotating, locally distributed buffer stock system of nutrient-dense produce, through a new protected community service supply chain built on the third sector provision build in response to Covid:

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(1) see our report: UK preparedness for future system shocks. One scenario: Buffer contingency food stocks. November 2020

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Question fom LJ:
Has anyone developed the notion of into a working plan — given the issues in the supply chain of everyone wanting the longest shelf- life dates?

Response:
A working plan? Well, yes and no.

Yes: Think how, isolated communities operate. The State of Jersey, for example, has buffer stocks in Portsmouth.

For buffer stocks of nutrient-dense produce for much larger populations? The 68 million of us in the UK, for example? To our knowledge, no. And yes, that’s a piece of work that we’re planning to do, funding permitting.

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Comment from TRM:
Also social eating places would have a positive public health benefits — people eat more in the company of others, those that live alone are more likely to be at risk of undernutrition — social isolation has a direct connection to malnutrition.

Response:
Yes, indeed. There wasn’t time in the presentation to go into detail, or show either of the infographics above.

As you can see from the second of them, the idea behind the new community catering supply service is to encourage eating out to be the new normal for everyone, aspirational, affordable, nutritious and convenient.

note: It’s only in the last couple of generations that sees meal preparation as an individual responsibility. There were larger households in pre-War times. Works canteens, luncheon vouchers and the like were commonplace until the mid to late-80s.

A comparison: We no longer consider making our own clothes, or patching, mending and darning old clothes as requisite skills.

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This is the final blogpost in the Lunar Society series. They are all listed in here.

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The Birmingham Food Council is a Community Interest Company registered in England and Wales number 8931789