The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on food security, globally, and highlighted the vulnerabilities in our food systems.
It resulted in widespread disruption to food supply chains, food access, and food affordability, which significantly impacted The Bahamas and, disproportionately, those in low-income households and vulnerable communities.
The pandemic highlighted the importance of addressing the root causes of poverty, such as lack of affordable housing, low wages, and inadequate social safety nets.
It also exposed the fragility of our food supply chains.
Many countries faced shortages of essential foods, such as grains and meat, as a result of disruptions to international trade and transportation.
Many people lost their jobs or faced a reduction in income during the pandemic, which made it challenging for them to access adequate food.
Food banks struggled to keep up with the increased demand, and many people had to rely on charitable organizations and the generosity of others to feed their families.
The government reported spending more than $50 million feeding thousands of Bahamian households through a good portion of the pandemic, and still it was not enough.
As the pandemic squeezed the food supply, and our now-former competent authority also thoughtlessly squeezed us even more with draconian limits on grocery shopping, the nation by and large became converts to the gospel of food security.
In the midst of the storm, as the wind blows in the night and the water rises, there are often promises to reform one’s ways.
But when the torment ends, it is often back to business as usual.
In the time of trial, some people made promises to dive deeply into backyard and subsistence farming and initiatives to can, jar and freeze.
We talked about a major nationwide investment in agriculture, so that we would never be so dependent on the rest of the food producing world again.
This was easy to focus on with a near-shuttered economy and so many home from work.
However, as the world opened up, many lost their religion and looked to imports to once again primarily meet their needs as their days became occupied.
But as we have seen with skyrocketing inflation and some food shortages, partly the result of Russia’s war with Ukraine, ensuring food security for The Bahamas post-pandemic must be a priority for not only the government, but also households and communities throughout the country.
This will take more than just giving lip service to important initiatives like CARICOM’s 25 percent by 2025 Reduction in the Regional Food Bill.
The cost of food has also become a burden for many households, with price control measures doing little to help.
The cost of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased, making it more difficult for families to access healthy and nutritious food, the majority of which we do not grow.
We are under no illusions that The Bahamas can feed itself anytime soon.
This would take a significant shift in the national diet and the diet of the visitors we feed.
We are engaged in massive meat consumption that we do not have the resources to sustain.
We also consume a vast amount of non-seasonal genetically modified fruits and vegetables as well as wheat and rice.
We also overfish certain preferred seafood in favor of others that are abundant, particularly during different seasons.
It will take a great deal of work.
However, we can begin to chip away at it in a meaningful way.
It involves investing in programs that support backyard and community farms, propping up small farmers, building local food systems, and re-examining the food tariff regime.
Building a stronger food network with our CARICOM counterparts is also essential.
We can also invest in new technology with regard to food production.
We can reconstruct the trading partnerships that once made us much more interconnected, dropping barriers to trade among ourselves as CARICOM was envisioned to do.