In recent weeks, supermarkets in Australia have been stripped of basic items. Some people may have difficulty finding basic foods like canned food or rice.
It is particularly true for our most vulnerable citizens – from older people to those living in remote Indigenous Communities. The rising cost of food and job losses will also cause many to be priced out, leading to an increase in the number of people experiencing food insecurity.
Read more: How a time of panic buying could yet bring us together
However, scarcity and food system vulnerabilities are not new experiences. Wars, the great depression, the global financial crisis, and natural disasters such as fires and floods have exposed the fallibilities of our food system.
When disaster strikes, “food preferences” will be the first thing to go. “Making do” is the only option for those who are able.
While there is no need to stockpile food in supermarkets right now, some Australians are looking for other ways to feed their families and themselves. Past experiences can help us identify skills, resources and approaches.
Some Australians are seeking alternative ways to feed their families and themselves. James Gourley/AAP
This helps us prepare for future instabilities of food access that the effects of climate change will cause. By looking back at the past, we can build the skills and knowledge necessary to improve future household and community resilience.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will have the same access to food or be able to eat a typical diet.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation, it is defined as “food security” that requires “physical and economic” access by “all people in all situations.” Food security does not only require access to “sufficient and nutritious food,” it also involves food that meets our “dietary needs and food preferences.”
Read more: Getting creative with less. Recipe lessons from the Australian Women’s Weekly during wartime.
Recent low yields of drought-impacted crops such as rice means supplies were limited even prior to the shortages created by panic buying.
Canneries are stopping production of some standard lines because they cannot get enough ingredients to meet the unprecedented demand.
The current measures to help vulnerable groups, such as meal deliveries and ” basic boxes,” are unable to meet the diverse tastes and requirements of these groups.
For those of us who don’t have special dietary requirements, our daily eating habits will likely need to change.
You can grow your own.
During COVID-19, many Australians turned to growing food at home, and edible plants quickly sold out in nurseries.
The most common historical response to food insecurity is to grow your own. Encouraged community and home food production during World War I due to limited supply. In the US, Canada, and the UK during World War II, ” Dig For Victory ” campaigns were launched.
This 1941 video explains the steps to preparing a space for growing vegetables and why lack of space is not an excuse.
Extreme weather events also reveal the benefits of more localised foods systems.
In Australia, food access is heavily dependent on the supply chain powered by trucks that travel long distances. Food access is at risk when roads are closed, as they were in recent Queensland floods and bushfires.
Read more: Food democracy: why eating is unavoidably political
It is important to have the time to devote to food gardening, to pay attention to the needs of plants, and to have a space outside with enough sun. Some people don’t have the time, infrastructure or knowledge to grow their own food.
Community gardens can be a great option for people who lack the knowledge, infrastructure or desire to garden. Penelope Beveridge/AAP
communal garden, like The Happiness Garden of Canberra, is an alternative. Community gardens are a great way to learn and improve your skills with others. However, social distance can make this difficult. You should also be aware of soil safety, depending on the previous use of the land. This is especially important if you reside in an inner-city area.
There’s still a lot of info available on the internet. You can connect with local gardening groups or swap socially distant tips with your neighbors.
During times of economic instability, food foraging and hunting feral animals have been used to supplement the mainstream food supply. During the Great Depression, dandelions, wild rabbits, and other weeds were regularly added to the meals.
Urban food foraging is a growing trend. Dandelions, purslane, and nettles have been abounding since the recent rains. With the right preparation, they can be used in salads, stir-fries, and soups.
Online, you can also find expert guidance to help you avoid picking poisonous plants.
Hugo Potter, Author, provided edible weeds near his home. Hugo Potter provided
Create good habits now.
When resources are scarce, it is important to be frugal and inventive.
Using whole foods is important. Learn to embrace your vegetable waste during National Nutrition Week 2019 (https://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/news/2019/09/learn-embrace-your-vegetable’s-waste%E2%80%99).
Read more: 10 tips for eating locally and cutting the energy used to produce your food.
This ability to adapt to uncertainty is critical to developing resilient communities.
We need a robust national food policy and a local urban food system planning to meet the long-term challenges that threaten our planet’s health.
Now is the time to experiment with our neighborhoods and homes to secure our food’s future.