Is There a Food Shortage Coming?
The question is no longer whether or not food shortages are coming; it is now mainstream news that shortages are already here. Just taking a trip to your local grocery or big box store will prove it. It might not be extreme in your area but it is apparent that certain items are in short supply. With that said, should you panic? And is it too late to prepare? Surprisingly my answer to both of these questions is, no.
Last year many of us experienced something we never thought we would see in our lifetime. No, I don’t mean a man with a blonde mullet on tv with a cat fetish. I’m referring to the great tp famine of 2020.
Why are There Shortages at the Grocery Store?
In order to understand how to deal with a problem, it’s important to know why it’s happening. This can help you better assess what you are going to need to be more prepared for a crisis like a food supply shortage. After all, if you only have a month of food stockpiled for a long-term supply chain issue you’re gonna be S.O.L. if the issue isn’t fixed. So let’s get into the issues we’re facing in today’s crazy world when it comes to our food supply. Because let’s be real it’d take a book to discuss all the issues we’re facing right now.
I’d like to say there is one cause behind what we are experiencing when it comes to food shortages in grocery stores, but that’s just not the case. The truth is, there is a multitude of issues that have combined and metastasized to create a giant poop storm that is crippling our supply chain.
Labor shortages are a huge part of the supply chain issue. The majority of our food is distributed across the US via trucks and rail. We also have a ton of food shipped into western ports by cargo ship.
Recently it’s been in the news that there are quite a few cargo ships sitting off the western coast of the US. The reason for this is that there is a shortage of dockworkers as well as a huge shortage of truckers. Meaning thousands of shipping containers are sitting on docks waiting to be offloaded.
The lack of truckers can be attributed to a couple of factors. Last year during lockdowns many truckers lost their jobs and some stayed on unemployment not returning to work. In California, trucking licenses were not issued due to the DMV being shut down in March of 2020. So replacing or adding to trucking fleets was next to impossible. And now many truckers are having to choose between their jobs and the jab.
To add insult to injury this year the western states experienced an extreme drought. The majority of our fruits, nuts, and vegetables are grown in California. Most of our livestock is in the central and southwest as well. When a drought happens not only does it affect crops but it also causes issues for ranchers. Many farmers had to cull their herds due to a lack of water and hay to feed them.
In a normal year, this is definitely a cause for concern, but when you add all the other factors that are 2021 it’s a recipe for disaster.
Oil Shortages/ Fuel Price Hikes
You’d have to be living on the moon not to know about the massive increase in gas prices since January of this year. Of course, that’s what happens when you stop being an oil-independent nation. (That’s a post for another time though.) And because our supply chain is fueled by oil, these prices are definitely going to have an effect on not only our food supply but food prices as well.
Fuel prices affect every part of our life and when the cost to fill up your tank is almost as much as your monthly water bill it hurts. You pay for these increases not only at the pump but at the grocery store, buying goods online, your electric bill, etc… Nearly everything in our day-to-day life is affected by the price of oil. Even if you drive an electric car you are dependent on the company that provides the electricity to your home and that company is affected by the price of oil.
Fertilizer Shortages (China Bans Sale of Phosphates)
The majority of food products in the grocery store contain some form of corn. If you live off a traditional American diet you are eating a heck of a lot more corn than you realize. That being said traditional farming methods (including corn farming) are reliant on fertilizer and we are facing fertilizer shortages and price hikes. These problems are almost always passed on to the consumer.
The main source of fertilizer price increases and shortages is due to China’s ban on phosphate exports. This doesn’t affect the US much but a large number of other countries rely on China for phosphate imports. This will put a strain on the market and drive up prices. It also doesn’t help that the US produces a significant amount of fertilizer in the Gulf area which saw shutdowns due to Hurricane Ida.
Strain of Last Year’s Lockdowns
It’s no surprise that last year’s lockdowns had a dramatic effect on our economy and contributed to supply chain issues. It was like someone put the breaks on our system and tried to do a hard reboot. There was bound to be a ripple effect. When things began to open up many people who were laid off realized they could stay home and receive unemployment that paid more than the job they were laid off from. It was extremely tempting to many. Unfortunately, it was too much for our economy to handle.
Now we have a backlog of ordered commodities, a lack of inventory, and a shortage of bodies to deliver said products. It was bound to catch up to us sooner or later.
The two biggest cyber attacks so far in 2021 had a direct impact on our food supply; the Colonial pipeline and JBS Foods attacks.
The Colonial pipeline is one of the major fuel lines on the east coast. And anytime you have a strain on your fuel supply, as I discussed above, it affects our food supply. It massively increased the price of fuel on the east coast and caused long lines at gas stations. And it is very obvious how this would be detrimental to the trucks shipping food across the region.
The JBS Foods attack crippled one of the biggest meat processing companies in the world. Although it didn’t appear to create a meat shortage; it very likely had an impact on the price of meat. When a company pays an $11 million ransom to regain control of its computers you can be certain that the loss will be passed on to the customer.
Many people blamed preppers for buying up all the toilet paper at the beginning of 2020, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. You see, we already had a stockpile collected over the years from conscience buying practices. The same can be said for food items. The key to being prepared is buying a little extra over multiple shopping trips. This way of thinking ensures that others will also have what they need.
Panic buying by the unprepared is another example of what can cause food shortages in local stores. But with some thoughtful practices, you can be prepared and not create issues for your community.
How Long Could Food Shortages Last?
To be honest there is really no way to predict how long food shortages will last. I’m sure our grandparents and great-grandparents were asking the same thing during the depression of the 1930s. As we’ve seen above there are many factors contributing to what we’re seeing in the grocery stores. And that makes me believe that we will see a fluctuation in what products are available not only over time but also by region. The best thing anyone can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And it is more important now than ever to lessen your reliance on our fragile food system.
How to be Prepared if Food Shortages Get Worse
You need to be thinking about how you can change the way your family eats if food shortages get worse or last for a long period of time. Instead of buying empty calories, you need to buy foods that provide the most nutrition for the lowest price.
- Buy a little bit extra of items your family eats on every shopping trip. Do not clear shelves. Shortages will be different for each region of the country. Stock up on those items that seem to be more available.
- Cook from scratch. A bag of rice can be used to make multiple types of meals whereas a box of Hamburger Helper is a one-shot item.
- If possible start a garden now! This is the best way to supplement your food supply. Remember there are crops that can be grown year-round even in northern climates.
- Stock-pile basics: Flour, sugar, salt, beans, rice, peanut butter, honey, etc… Buy canned foods or can your own food. Make sure they’re items your family will eat.
- Connect with local resources: Farmers, farmer’s markets, bartering groups, and small stores in your area. Avoid big box stores (it’s more likely they will be experiencing shortages.
- If possible raise chickens, they are a great return on investment in small livestock. Plus they are a great source of protein.
Why Being More Self-Reliant is Insurance for Your Family During Supply Chain Disruptions
Last year was a wake-up call for a lot of people. And sadly many didn’t fair too well or to this day are waiting for a return to normal. Unfortunately, I don’t think we are going to see a return to “normal” pre-2020 life anytime soon. That’s why it’s so important to learn from this disaster and make a game plan to ensure your family will not be left in need. Self-reliance shouldn’t be looked at as something weird or difficult. I look at it as one of the most basic forms of freedom and independence. As well as just another form of insurance. After all, we see what happens when we rely too heavily on our fragile food systems and supply chain.
It is absolutely never too late to take the steps needed to help you and your family become more self-reliant and be able to provide food for yourselves.
Beginner Steps to Become More Self-Reliant
- Start a food storage: I know I preach about this all the time but it is absolutely vital to have a food storage. I believe the bare minimum is 3 months worth of food for each member of your family. And remember food quality is just as important as quantity. Ramen is not going to keep your family fed but pasta with tomato sauce will.
- Have a backup water supply: Backup water is an absolute must. I give some great tips in my article about the best products for safe water in your home. It is quite difficult to cook a meal without a safe supply of water.
- Backup power supply: I always planned on getting a generator but didn’t get serious about it until we moved out to the woods and lost power 4 times in one month. I am definitely looking into a solar generator now! It’s fine to have a stockpile of food but if your freezer goes out how much will you lose?
- Create your own food source: To me, this is the biggest step you can take to become self-reliant especially with food shortages happening. Starting a garden or raising small livestock will be the biggest determinant of how affected you will be by supply chain disruptions.
- Get to know your community: Trust me this was something I always shied away from when I lived in Washington State. But now that I live in a small West Virginian town I have learned the value of community. Knowing your neighbors is important. Not just for security reasons. Supply chain issues won’t be a huge problem if you’re trading goods and skills with your friend next door.
- Learn a traditional skill: Many people are learning the value of the skills their grandparents and great-grandparents knew. Last year when nobody could get bread in our area, and yeast was in short supply; sourdough starter became a very popular search on google. Skills I tell people that they should learn during hard times are canning, cooking from scratch, crocheting/knitting, woodworking, foraging, fishing, and hunting to name a few.
- Get rid of unnecessary items: A lot of us are totally dependent on things that have no real value in our lives especially when it comes to surviving a disaster. Think about selling or getting rid of things that are a strain on two of your most valuable resources: time and money. If the thought of becoming self-reliant sounds expensive, what can you sell that will be better put towards your family’s well-being? After all, you can’t eat a Playstation or iPhone.
- Buy Locally: Learn about Local Harvest and find a farmer or butcher near you! You might be surprised at the cost savings over buying from the grocery store.
It’s so important that we take the lessons learned from previous years to heart and not get in the mindset that it either won’t happen again or things will get back to normal. You can grow from this struggle and become less dependent on the whims of government and our supply chain. All it takes is a little know-how and some hard work.
I pray that God blesses you and your family. Let me know in the comments below some of the things you plan on doing to become more self-reliant.