Climate change is one of many issues threatening the North Carolina food system. This committee will encourage food councils to keep climate change in front of mind and offer up-to-date, unbiased information on mitigation and adaptation resources.
Why Should We Still Be Talking About
Climate Change in the Midst of a Pandemic?
COVID-19 has tested the resiliency of our food system, and it has shown the fragility of the current globalized food system in a way that can teach us lessons about how we need to strengthen food systems against future crises like climate change. It is estimated that COVID-19 has resulted in an additional 130 million people worldwide who are on the brink of starvation, and that number will likely double to 265 million by the end of the year.1 Before the pandemic, food insecurity was already high in North Carolina, especially among our most vulnerable populations. Prior to the pandemic more than 600,000 households in NC didn’t have enough to eat, including 1 in 5 children. In 2020, food security could increase to over 54 million people, including 18 million children.2 The pandemic highlighted additional vulnerabilities as dozens of slaughterhouses and meat processing plants closed temporarily or reduced their capacity, leaving farmers economically vulnerable, and forcing them to euthanize many of their animals; shortages of fruits and vegetables and other agricultural products occurred in grocery stores and other market outlets as farm and processing labor became ill; school meals and the feeding of other vulnerable populations and the food insecurity safety net was disrupted and overwhelmed.
Up until the recent pandemic, conversations that revolved around the resiliency of our food system related to climate change, but the pandemic has exposed some additional ways the food system is vulnerable. Perhaps COVID-19 can be a turning point towards building a more resilient food system.
What a more Resilient Food System in NC would look like that would reduce our vulnerability in times of climate change, COVID-19, and other stressors:
- Increased number of and variety of smaller-scale local supply chains, and fisheries in North Carolina, including production, processing, distribution, consumption, and food waste recovery
- More local food infrastructure including cold storage, trucking, processing, food hubs, and slaughterhouse and meat processing plants.
- More food waste recovery throughout the supply chain
- Increased support for beginning farmers, including mentorship and incubator farm programs, loan and grant programs, access to land, school loan forgiveness, insurance pools, broadband in rural areas, etc.
- New market development, including diversifying direct-to-consumer market channels, enhancing agritourism, establishing online ordering systems, contactless transactions and home delivery services.
- Promoting and supporting resilient production systems that prioritize soil carbon sequestration and conservation (including developing rewards in the marketplace)
- Training and education and support for career ladder development, apprenticeship and intern programs, and growing a new cohort of young people to work in a resilient agriculture
- Address racial equity in the food system from farm to fork so that the inequities that exist are not exacerbated by stressors, and in fact are eliminated over time.
The unanticipated shock of COVID-19 underscores the urgency of moving towards a system that can withstand future stresses. Fortunately, the changes recommended to reduce the vulnerabilities seen with COVID-19 have the potential to both respond to the pandemic in the short term, as well as move us towards a more climate-resilient system in the long-term.
1COVID-19 will double number of people facing food crises unless swift action is taken. (2020). Retrieved October 05, 2020, from https://www.wfp.org/news/covid-19-will-double-number-people-facing-food-crises-unless-swift-action-taken
2For people facing hunger, poverty is just one issue. (2020). Retrieved October 05, 2020, from
Disaster Relief Programs
- USDA Disaster Assistance Programs provide resources for communities, farmers, ranchers, and businesses to receive relief funding for hurricane damage.
- The USDA Southeast Climate Hub commodity guides for hurricane preparation and recovery for North Carolina showcase the current state of the science and industry in hurricane adaptation.
- NC Rural Center Disaster Recovery provides disaster recovery toolkit for individuals, small businesses, agricultural businesses, and nonprofit organizations
- Council on Foundations: Disaster Philanthropy
- NC Inclusive Disaster Recovery Network Grant Program
- CEFS’ Climate Change and Food System Innovation Hub
- CFSA’s Hurricane Isaias Post – Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s collection of resources for farmers, ranchers, and business owners
- NC Disaster Information Center – NC Extensions portal for news and updates on natural disasters and disaster preparation for the ag and general community
- ReadyNC – Disaster preparation and information services from NC Dept of Public Safety