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Climate One

Monday, August 31 at 2:00 pm

Covid-19 And Climate: Implications For Our Food System

COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of our lives and economy – perhaps none more than our food system.

“Slightly more than 50% of our food dollars is spent out of the home,” says Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and former Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “When you think about 50% of the market immediately being shut down, that’s a huge thing to try to absorb.”

With restaurants devastated, food workers either unemployed or vulnerable, and trips to the grocery store now highly-planned ventures into risky territory, the pandemic is having a broad impact on the way food is produced and consumed. 

“Farmers saw a lot of increased demand from consumers who are home and wanted food at home, direct to consumer,” says Lisa Held, Senior Reporter with Civil Eats, who covers the meat industry and other aspects of agriculture.

“A lot of farmers went totally online, which was very effective, but requires extra labor, extra packaging -- just so much time essentially creating a whole new business model at the time when you're transitioning into harvest season.”

Helene York, who was an executive at companies that run food operations on corporate and college campuses before becoming a Covid layoff herself, admires the way many food producers have been able to pivot. But she also laments the lack of coordinated federal response to the pandemic.

“We all know some very good public servants in the USDA and many of them had their hands tied,” she says. “There could've been a 10 time improvement [in] efforts on how we support eaters as well as producers that could've come from more focused planning from the USDA.”

Lisa Held
Senior Policy Reporter, Civil Eats

Karen Ross
Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture

Helene York
Professor, Food Business School, Culinary Institute of America

Additional Speakers:
Shay Myers, CEO, Owyhee Produce
Gabriel Morales, Program Director, Brandworkers

To listen to the audio of “Covid-19 And Climate: Implications For Our Food System” from Climate One online, please click HERE.