When the world comes to a screeching halt like never before in our lifetimes, we eat macaroni and cheese and hot dogs at home. We’re lucky Americans.
It’s true, said Mitch Arends, senior vice president of operations and manufacturing at Kraft Heinz, in an interview with FoodDive. Arends said Kraft Heinz is operating 24 hours a day, across 39 U.S. factories with 19,000 employees to keep Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Heinz Ketchup, Maxwell House coffee, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and other items stocked.
Think about what most of us are being asked to do: Stay home. Work from home. Educate your kids at home. Eat at home.
Eating at home has never been more manageable. Some of us can have groceries delivered to our home. We can order takeout or delivery from local restaurants. Some schools are even delivering meals to your children at home. And if you do not have enough food to feed your family right now, local programs and food pantries are working to meet your needs.
Food makes America great. Never have we been able to celebrate our first-world food system like we can during a pandemic. Whether it’s the blue boxes of mac and cheese on your grocery store shelves or grocery delivery to your home, the American food system delivers the food we demand.
Americans love cheap, accessible and easy-to-prepare foods. Mac and cheese with hot dogs? I can taste the grains, dairy and protein in that comfort-packed meal. Is it full of leafy greens? No. But it will sustain us during pandemics, record unemployment and economic plunder.
I am thankful for our comfort food choices in our efficient food system. Food industry giants, such as Kraft Heinz, can continue to deliver what Americans are eating.
Some aspects of our food supply chain can’t simply ramp up production to meet demand. For example, production of 5-gallon containers of fluid milk for food service can’t immediately switch over to bottling 1-gallon jugs for retail purchases. Not many of us are buying 5-gallon bags of milk for our homes.
Most of us aren’t buying the higher-end cuts of beef often sold in restaurants or consumed on business trips or vacations. But, wow, I am looking forward to the day when I can go to a restaurant and order a medium-rare filet mignon. Until then, I’ll keep buying affordable beef cuts and preparing them at home.
Another food service aspect I’ve pondered is how 40 pound commercial blocks of cheese aren’t easily shredded into cheese or divided into 1 pound blocks for consumers to purchase. As much as I long to purchase one of those big food service blocks of cheese, it’s easier (and better for my hips) if I buy the 1 pound blocks.
I am confident our food system can and will adapt, but the abundance of food in America is certain when there is so much uncertainty during a pandemic.
How can we improve our food system, decrease waste and meet the needs of those who are hungry? I do not have the answers.
What I do know is I am thankful for the people who work in the food system. I am thankful for the level of security America enjoys because we can feed ourselves.
I also realize our food system has flaws. There is hunger in all of our communities and counties. There is food waste. This crisis reminds us that we can always find ways to improve.
America’s food system can feed you, your family, your neighbors, your community, your county, your state and far beyond our borders. Thank you to all who are working to make it happen. No matter your role, you are appreciated. I know together we’re going to improve our food system and distribution.
Oh, what a world we will live in if after COVID-19 we’ve figured out how to feed more people while decreasing waste and improving the future for all of us.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.