Poe-tay-toh, Poe-tah-toe, Oh No!
Just when you thought this pandemic couldn’t make the planet Earth any more sad, now we have a potato shortage. The Washington Post published an article about it recently. Click here to give it a read (as of 01FEB2022 there is no pay wall for the article). The TL,DR: a combination of factors has left some parts of the globe short on french fries. Is that the worst thing that has happened to human kind lately? Not by a long shot. However, this complicated situation certainly does leave much for us to think about.
The United Nations has a very good article on the many causes of food shortages. I encourage you to read it. Several of these causes are noted in the Washington Post article. Frosts and rain in damaged the potato crop in South Africa. Flooding also delayed the shipping of American potatoes to Japan. The social upheaval related to COVID-19 actually put a dent in restaurant demand for potatoes, leading to a 2% drop in production in 2021. Yes, food supplies can get complicated.
What should we do? Generally, we should promote and vote for people and policies that support family farmers, farm and supply chain laborers, and food security for all. This is not a political blog.
If potatoes become rare in your area, just use your DIYet skills!
- Choose a substitute. It is winter in the northern hemisphere, and that means root vegetables are in season and inexpensive (in the context of current inflation.) Rutabaga, turnip, parsnip, carrot and sweet potato can be mashed, roasted, or made into fries. The internet tells me you can even make turnips into tots.
- Shorten the supply chain. Go to LocalHarvest.org and find a local Farmer’s market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Your local supermarket or megastore might not have spuds trucked in from Idaho or Maine each week, but your local farmers might still have a supply (even if you live in Idaho or Maine).
- Remove the supply chain. If you find a few soft, sprouted potatoes in your pantry, try your hand at growing them. You can buy seed potatoes at a garden center, but using the sprouty ones from the pantry eliminates food waste, and costs no extra money.
We all have our favorite comfort foods. If potatoes are one of your favorites, fear not. The shortage is temporary. While you are looking for alternate ways to procure potatoes, take a moment to consider our complex food supply system. So many forces can make it more difficult to get food to your plate. Support the people who do that work! Support people who can not get enough to their plate!