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Food Insecurity for the World

Food distribution as a mission area for emergency management due to climate change.

As I shop for food, the rise in prices is clearly evident as I run my credit card and get the receipt for what I purchased. Everyone is complaining about the inflation rate and the cost of food and gasoline.

What if the issue was not just the price of food, but the availability of food? We have had a “taste” of this in the recent past with the supply chain impacts coming out of the pandemic. I recall the meat section being barren at one point due to meat packing impacts.

Here’s this story for what is happening in one region of Italy right now: “Italian authorities: ‘70% of crops are gone’ in Po River Delta.” When we talk about heat, the next two hazards that are connected to the increased temperatures are typically drought and then wildfires. Drought is a crop killer.

In the near term we are going to see more and more food-producing regions of the world with decreased yields and total crop failures. Watch what is happening now and what will get worse as water resources from the Colorado River keep getting more and more restrictions put in place and farmers’ allocation of water continues to decrease. Farming in a desert works when there is plenty of water — not so much as water resources dry up.

The cost of fresh vegetables will skyrocket and the availability of these crops will decrease. While we decry the cost of food today, there are regions of the world that will have radical food shortages, and not just from the wheat crop in Ukraine being held hostage by Russia.

Food insecurity will become more and more real. Are we headed for “food riots” in the United States? Not today or tomorrow, but you can expect to see those types of events happening in third world nations as the food shortages become more acute.

When will emergency management as a profession get swept up into the role of food distribution? As a mission, not directly connected to a specific disaster. The future is getting a bit cloudy as we move further down the road of climate change. Be prepared for radical changes in our mission area assignments.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.