Posts Tagged: coronavirus
Empty grocery store shelves are troubling enough to California consumers who are accustomed to abundant supplies. To hear about farmers dumping milk, crushing eggs and plowing under crops when demand for food is strong just doesn't make sense to most consumers. Although the new coronavirus crisis has currently derailed the connection between supply and demand, “the food system in the United States is resilient and there is little reason for alarm about food availability,” write University of California agricultural economists.
Overall, neither food consumption nor the amount of food supplied by farms have changed much, they write in a new article published by UC's Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. The authors explain that the sudden closure of schools, restaurants and other institutions, coupled with residents in many states sheltering in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19, has disrupted normal patterns of where people buy food.
“Price changes, surpluses and shortages along the food supply chain are likely the result of recent and temporary shocks to supply, demand or both,” said co-author Ellen Bruno, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley.
“On the demand side, we have seen customers shift to buying more food at the grocery store as restaurants and other food service businesses have closed. Plus, consumers have changed what they consume and stockpile during these times,” she said.
Initially, worried consumers stocked up on staples such as rice and pasta that store well. Then, with more free time, they started cooking at home and baking their own bread and pastries, buying up eggs, flour, sugar and other baking supplies.
“On the supply side, there are challenges in trying to rearrange production and packaging to service grocery stores, as opposed to restaurants, schools, etc. which often purchase items in different quantities,” Bruno said. “Plus, there are the obvious health concerns and potential disruptions due to the impact of the virus on the workers themselves.”
How quickly the food supply system will adapt to changing demand depends on the product, according to Bruno and her co-authors Richard J. Sexton, UC Davis professor, and Daniel A. Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center and UC Davis professor, both in the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics. Canned fruits and vegetables are often processed shortly after harvest and can be moved from storage to retail fairly quickly. To increase egg production, farmers have to add to the number of laying hens, which takes months. Many perishable produce items are planted, harvested, packed and shipped according to a precise schedule to replenish grocery store inventories “just in time” so farmers can't quickly increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables they supply.
Produce wholesalers who sell to food service have products and packaging specifically designed for that market. For example, packing plants that prepare large bulk salad packages for restaurants aren't set up to pack salad into retail-ready bags that require consumer labels. While adjustments were made, some fresh produce rotted or was plowed under.
After the COVID-19 disruption ends, the authors expect the food supply chain to evolve as the economy gradually recovers.
“In the longer term, even after restaurants and the food service industry are back and running, reduced incomes due to the recession will change our consumption patterns,” Bruno said. “Demand for food consumed at home doesn't change much with income, but demand for food at restaurants does. In many ways, food service and the growers that supply directly to food service will be hardest hit by all of this because they suffer both in the short run with mandatory closures and in the long run with an economic recession.”
Although it's uncertain how long the pandemic will last, the authors say Americans will have an adequate supply of safe, healthy food.
“Despite these disruptions, overall our food supply chain is robust and adaptable,” Bruno said. “Nothing in the underlying economics suggests that there will be a lack of food available.”
To read “The Coronavirus and the Food Supply Chain,” visit https://bit.ly/covidimpactonfood.
“A group of us are retooling our workshops for online delivery and have seen tremendous interest,” said Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor in Humboldt County. “We have been blown away by the interest in this approach. The April oak health workshop has over 452 people registered after a week of advertising. We probably would have only had 40 people for an in-person event.”
She added, “The prescribed fire for foresters class has 225 people registered after a week of advertising and we probably would have only had 60 people for an in-person event.”
“I am humbled by the interest and hopeful that we'll be able to deliver meaningful content and interaction,” Valachovic said. To accommodate a larger number of participants, she said they are prerecording talks, gathering questions in advance to manage the deluge of questions flowing into the chat box and scheduling live Q and A sessions on Zoom with the speakers and attendees.
For UC Master Food Preservers, nutrition educators and anyone else interested in safe food handling, Erin DiCaprio, UC Cooperative Extension food safety specialist in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, partnered with colleagues at North Carolina State University to create coronavirus and food safety materials. There are nine peer-reviewed fact sheets answering COVID-19-related questions about takeout food, food safety, handling groceries and more. The fact sheets can be downloaded free from the COVID-19 section of the ANR catalog: https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Items.aspx?hierId=1100.
The UC Master Food Preserver Program is training its volunteers via Zoom https://ucfoodsafety.ucdavis.edu/consumers/food-safety-home/home-food-preservation/uc-master-food-preserver-food-safety-training and will be demonstrating food preservation techniques via YouTube like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeoymcsLWlg.
To help Californians support local farmers, the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program created the UC Agritourism Directory at www.calagtour.org. Consumers can look up local farms and ranches and purchase directly from the producer. The new UC SAREP webpage COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place Direct-from-Farm Resources, at http://www.calagtour.org/Shelter-in-Place_Resources, includes information and links to farms and ranches that offer box deliveries, farm stands, online ordering, delivery and pickup services, organized by region.
The UC Master Gardener Program is offering online training for volunteers at http://mg.ucanr.edu/Resources/eXtension_Campus/. Home gardeners trying to grow their own food can find resources at https://ucanr.edu/Coronavirus_and_COVID-19/Gardening/ and ask their local UC Master Gardener volunteers questions. To find local UC Master Gardeners, visit http://mg.ucanr.edu/FindUs/.
California Institute for Water Resources has created a new Water and COVID-19 web page that curates water safety, water use and water supply information. It includes links to information about COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean and from the World Health Organization in Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. They plan to update the page at http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/California_Drought_Expertise/Water_COVID19 as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
In response to school closures, the UC Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, or EFNEP, and CalFresh Healthy Living UC staff members statewide are providing curricula and other resources to teachers and community organizations to continue nutrition education.
“We surveyed the needs of the educators and are exploring ways to continue to offer evidence-based curriculum while building skills for staff in the area of online and distance learning, using Zoom and social media platforms, such as Facebook Live and YouTube, and other learning platforms such as Google Classroom,” said Katie Panarella, director of UC ANR's Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences Program.
Parents who are home schooling their children can get curricula and ideas for educational activities from their local UC Cooperative Extension offices.
The following are a few examples of UC Cooperative Extension activities in counties.
In San Luis Obispo County, CalFresh Health Living, UC built a YouTube Channel to provide nutrition, food safety and physical activity lessons that educators share with their students as part of their assigned schoolwork during shelter in place orders https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN8eCNc4m1vCbgFrld42MHw/videos.
“Parents should check out our YouTube station for videos featuring nutrition educators covering topics from nutrition and cooking to fun physical activities that don't require any equipment,” Shannon Klisch, CalFresh Health Living, UC program supervisor in San Luis Obispo County.
“There are great ideas for active learning like the Alphabet scavenger hunt at https://youtu.be/M5wMryJkH7M, she said. “And lessons about the importance of eating a variety of foods using MyPlate, including the “Dairy gives us strong bones lesson” with a yogurt parfait recipe included that children of many different ages can help assemble at https://youtu.be/_OUF1nKMKMM.
For kids in Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado and Tuolumne counties, UCCE 4-H advisor JoLynn Miller has been livestreaming lessons on FaceBook Live at https://www.facebook.com/Tuolumnecounty4h. She recently wore a crazy hairdo for Spirit Week while delivering an embryology lesson featuring hatching chicks https://www.facebook.com/Tuolumnecounty4h/videos/235774560806010/.
In Sonoma County, UC Cooperative Extension created a Food Recovery Coalition webpage https://ucanr.edu/sites/SCRFC/ listing opportunities to volunteer, donate and more.
In San Bernardino County, UC Cooperative Extension is offering online classes twice a week on topics including growing food, sustainable landscaping, composting and pest management. For upcoming events, visit http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/.
In Tulare and Kings counties, Alice Escalante, UC ANR adult nutrition educator, is using WhatsApp to motivate her Walking Club participants to continue striding toward their walking goal of 10,000 steps a day as part of CalFresh Health Living, UC's nutrition and physical activity program.
In Imperial County, 4-H program representative Anita Martinez is leading cooking demonstrations and organizing 4-H All Stars to show their cooking skills via Facebook Live three times per week. “We have done nine cooking demonstrations on Facebook Live with more than 1.5k views for each one,” wrote Yu Meng, UC Cooperative Extension youth, family and community advisor.
In Sutter County, UC nutrition educators distributed "Lunch to Grow" packages to 125 families at a Yuba City Elementary School drive-through lunch pick up. Each package contained one vegetable plant seedling, a small bag of potting soil, a small pot and instructions for planting.
Starting in Napa County on April 11, people can join the SOD Blitz, a sudden oak death disease mapping project. Matteo Garbelotto, UCCE forest pathology specialist and adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, redesigned the annual citizen science project to adhere to current coronavirus precautions to ensure the safety of participants. The series of SOD Blitzes will be held in communities between Napa and San Luis Obispo through June. For more information and the latest schedule, visit www.sodblitz.org.
Find a link to UCCE in your county on the map at https://ucanr.edu/About/Locations/.
Theories abound as to what life will be like when we come out of our current predicament. And who can say?
However, the focus for many is simply on dealing with the immediate. What can I eat? How do I visit the supermarket safely? Can I drink the water? I want to get outdoors, but is it safe? Can I garden? If so, how? How can I provide my kids meaningful engagement? What resources are available for the agriculture industry? How do I cope?
In response to these pressing needs, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, like many other universities and extension organizations across the country, are moving quickly to get more information online. While I haven't seen the actual numbers, we know millions of students (both high school and university) are quickly transitioning to online classes.
In addition, millions are seeking information on topics from agriculture and food to gardening to nutrition to wellness. The activity behind the scenes is at times frantic. We at UC ANR already have large amounts of credible, practical “how to” information online, but we know we can provide more. Our 12 statewide programs and institutes (links below), along with our network of advisors and specialists, are moving quickly to enhance out virtual connections and getting more useful information online - videos, fact sheets, courses, etc. - to ensure our outreach continues. For example, the UC California Naturalist program already had its first virtual graduation. Advisors are providing virtual consultations to farmers and others.
Do you need help navigating life during the coronavirus crisis? Explore our portal - ucanr.edu/covid19communityresources - to find information on gardening, safe outdoor exploration, food access, water and food safety, nutrition, wellness and more.
Learn about our statewide programs:
UC Integrated Pest Management Program (how to manage pests)
Nutrition, food, water and wellness
Enjoying the outdoors
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COVID-19 does not currently pose major threats to overall global food security because adequate stores of staples — like wheat and rice — remain available. But the sustainability of California specialty crops may face greater hurdles, reported Laura Poppick in Scientific American.
Poppick spoke with two UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) scientists for perspective on the future of California agriculture considering the market and production constraints posed by measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Everybody is scrambling to figure out what to do,” said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of UC ANR's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. “There's just a lot of disruption.”
Specialty products — such as some fruits and organic produce grown on smaller-scale farms — are often sold to restaurants and farmers markets, many of which are now closed or have reduced service, rather than directly to the grocery stores that are still operating. Even if these farmers are able to continue working, they may have limited places to sell their goods, the article said.
Strawberries are another crop likely to be affected. Laborers picking strawberries typically work more closely than is advisable to prevent the spread of the virus, said Mark Bolda, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor based in Watsonville. He said farmers are already making plans to spread workers between rows.
Strawberries, however, hit prime ripeness within a narrow window of just two to three days and must be picked quickly, Bolda says. Spacing workers may slow picking, and, "being slower is expensive."
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources is available to assist Californians across the state during the new coronavirus crisis. We are working differently, but we are still working to help residents improve their lives and businesses with resources on growing food in a garden, preserving food, entertaining kids with educational activities and many other useful topics at ucanr.edu.
We are finding opportunities to make life easier for communities. For example, in Sonoma County, UC Cooperative Extension developed an online Food Distribution Directory with CropMobster. “By changing our relationship to food waste, we can use excess, high quality food to feed people in need,” said Stephanie Larson, UC Cooperative Extension director for Sonoma County. For more information visit https://maps.cropmobster.com/food-distribution-directory/ and https://ucanr.edu/sites/SCRFC.
UC ANR Climate Smart Agriculture Community Education Specialists are assisting growers in applying for cost-share funds from CDFA's Climate Smart Agriculture programs, helping with filing paperwork with CDFA and implementing the cost-shared Climate Smart Agriculture practices. All of our technical assistance providers are currently working remotely and available via email, telephone, Zoom and other virtual communications technologies.
The University of California is vigilantly monitoring and responding to new information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which has been declared a global health emergency. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources employees are working remotely during their normal business hours and performing essential duties (such as feeding animals), protective measures that align with COVID-19 guidance from public health officials and the UC Office of the President. This status will be in effect through April 7, 2020, and may be extended.
We are also mindful of official guidance concerning social distancing; all in-person events will be canceled, postponed or conducted by Zoom through April 7 or until the guidance is modified. This includes all volunteer-led youth or adult programming, meetings or gatherings. Visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/PSU/ or contact your local UC Cooperative Extension office for information on event status.
Again, we are working and available. UC ANR is maintaining critical research projects and delivering programs online. We are exploring innovative ways to connect with the public using technology and working with our partners. UC ANR employees can be reached as normal through email or Zoom video conferencing.
Useful information is available at the following links.
- 4-H Youth Development Program
- Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program
- UC Master Food Preserver Program
- UC Master Gardener Program
Find your local UC Cooperative Extension office contact information here.
Additional information from our programs may be found at:
- Agricultural Issues Center
- California Institute for Water Resources
- California Naturalist Program
- CalFresh Healthy Living, UC
- Informatics and GIS Program
- Nutrition Policy Institute
- Research and Extension Center System
- Research and Information Centers
- Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM)
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP)
We also encourage members of the public to subscribe to our YouTube channels and follow our social media platforms:
- UC ANR (English)
- UC ANR (Spanish)
- Master Gardener Program
- Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM)
We look forward to seeing you online for the present time. What else can we do to help you? Send your suggestions to UC ANR Strategic Communications.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources professionals are working and available. (Photo: Pixabay)