Food Systems – Disruption and Collapse

As the political and social situation continues to evolve in Egypt, what I find often on my mind are the food system implications.  I have seen one short CNN report that does highlight the initial challenges; principally food can’t get into a major metropolitan area and families can’t get out of their homes to purchase food.

Food Staples starting to run out in Egypt

My very limited first hand experience comes from a relatively small strike/protest in Ecuador back in 1994.  I don’t actually remember the length of the event – maybe 7 – 10 days total.  First the fresh markets were barren.  Then my roommate would make these grocery runs to buy up what canned food she could find, increasingly scarce.  Of course we had the cash to buy what canned food we could find and at the prices asked; prices reflecting incredible inflation from day to day.  While I vaguely remember the smell of teargas, the marches, and road blockages, what stands out most memorable was the impact on the food system and access to food.

In 2006 I participated in a Sustainable Food Lab meeting that occurred purposefully in post-Katrina New Orleans.  One afternoon we divided into small groups of 5-7 people to specifically investigate and learn about the food system disruptions that occurred during Katrina and also how the food system was being rebuilt (or not) in the immediate aftermath.

Food systems do not simply re-appear.  A food system in crisis . . .


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