My Turn: Food security matters now more than ever

For the Monitor
Published: 4/14/2020 6:00:09 AM

Food security is defined as “the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” When you look at how we measure up here in the Granite State, it’s a good news/bad news issue. As a farmer, producing food in New Hampshire is something I know a thing or two about.

First the good news.

New Hampshire consistently ranks at the top of the list for direct sales between farms and consumers. Think farm stores, farmers markets and CSAs. This means that just about wherever you live in New Hampshire, you can probably find a local farm to provide for some of your needs, even when the supermarket aisles are picked bare. Not only are these farms part of your local community, but as an added bonus, when you spend money at them, that money stays in the community. That’s a bigger issue now than ever before given the quickly cratering economy.

Now the bad news. New Hampshire ranks 48th out of the 50 states for agricultural production, ahead of just Rhode Island and Alaska. We consume far more food than we produce. That’s a weakness that’s easily overlooked during the good times. But now, in the midst of the one-two punch of a pandemic and economic crisis, that weakness may well become more serious as supply chains are stressed.

Most of us will be just fine. But for families on the financial edge or the homeless, and based on current jobless reports there are already more of both, and for our older or immunocompromised neighbors who can’t go out, food security is front and center. So what can we do? Here’s a couple suggestions:

■Shop at your local farms. Our own farm store has seen increased traffic lately, despite having closed the actual retail space and accepting only pre-orders for pick up

■Join a CSA. This is the time of year they’re getting ready to plant spring crops, so don’t miss out.

■Plant a garden. Admit it, you have some time on your hands.

■Donate your abundance to a local food pantry or soup kitchen. Food hoarding has reduced the donations that food pantries depend on for donations.

■Volunteer. If you are healthy, young and able, please reach out to your local organizations who work in this field – many are dependent on retirees and our older neighbors for volunteers, exactly the people who need to stay at home right now.

When things get back to normal, and eventually they will, there is more work to be done to increase food security at every level. We need more farms in New Hampshire that are both financially viable and able to increase production, which means mitigating climate change. And we need to think creatively about how to solve the larger issues surrounding homelessness and poverty, which are both directly tied to increasing wages. But these recommendations are things we can do now. I hope you’ll join me.

(Craig Thompson is a farmer, state representative and candidate for Executive Council District 2. He lives in Harrisville.)


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