Food prices in grocery stores rise incrementally each year leaving people with food insecurity. This is especially an issue in Seattle where the grocery stores are one of the most expensive in America.( Seattle Gov.) Climate change is predicted to make the prices steeper because as the seasons change, it will be harder for farmers to grow crops that are in demand.(ucsua) This means that the cost of fresh produce will rise, the cost of meat will rise because crops are required to feed those animals and there will be more instability in the supply chain. This issue disproportionately burdens people of color and low-income households.(got green, Puget sound sage) We need to make good quality food more affordable by reducing climate change so that everyone has a way to buy food that is good for them without running out of money. To learn more about the disproportionate effects of climate change you can go [https://uw.pressbooks.pub/121climatejustice/chapter/disproportionate-impacts-of-climate-change-2/]
Effects on Weather
In order to understand how food prices rise, it is important to know how agriculture gets affected by the rise in climate. Higher temperatures have some effects on the weather such as more rainfall accompanied by heavier flooding, and longer droughts. (USDA, EPA) Rainfall and flooding cause soil erosion and water pollution. These things and the fact that water from the flooding can drown crops hurts yields on the coast and other agricultural regions such as the Midwest.(ucsusa) Drought can affect the farming of both livestock and crops. Crops grow best at a certain temperature so farmers will choose which crops to grow based on the temperature where they live so that they have the chance to produce the best yield of their plant. The optimal temperature of the plant will not change with the change in climate so plants may grow earlier in the year. For example, in a repost from the EPA they say “in 2010 and 2012, high nighttime temperatures affected corn yields across the U.S. Corn Belt, and premature budding due to a warm winter caused $220 million in losses of Michigan cherries in 2012”(citation). Droughts and higher temperatures effect livestock because the production of their food supply is reduced by the high temperatures, and heat stress can cause death, lower yields of milk, lower fertility and decrease the animal’s immune system. Another example from the EPA states “In 2011, exposure to high temperature events caused over $1 billion in heat-related losses to agricultural producers”. The higher temperatures have also caused fish to move north of the united states to find colder water. When the fish move into new waters they will compete in a new ecosystem, disrupting the other species that live there and also possibly worsening their chance for survival because they have to find food and space to live in a different environment. The life cycle of fish is also controlled by temperature so this means the time of their migration and reproduction could change . To learn more specifically about salmon extinction, you can go here [https://uw.pressbooks.pub/121climatejustice/chapter/environmental-impacts-on-salmon-and-wildlife/]
CO2 Levels and Disease
Plants use CO2 so an increase in CO2 can cause some crops to grow faster however this also comes with a better environment for weeds, parasites, and fungi to grow which will steal nutrients from the crops.(EPA) It has also been shown that more CO2 can cause plants to lack nutrients such as protein.(EPA) More CO2 causes this same effect to livestock because the warmer environment can increase the amount of parasites that can infect livestock and the lack of nutrition in the plants that the livestock will eat means that the animals must eat more volume of their food to get the same nutrition. And finally, more CO2 affects fish because it makes the ocean more acidic causing shellfish shells to be less sturdy. (EPA)
How do Rising Food Prices Hurt Communities in Seattle?
In Seattle, multiple sources report that about 13% of households are food insecure which means that a decent proportion of people living in Seattle have struggled to have the money to buy enough food to sustain themselves. (Seattle Gov, Got Green, Puget Sound Sage) Of this 13%, it was found by a study from the Seattle government that higher rates of marginalized communities were affected by food security. For example in the report it states “Although no gender differences were found among adults or school-age children, rates of food insecurity were two times higher among individuals who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) than among those who identified as heterosexual.”. In these marginalized communities it is also harder for them to get access to healthy foods. This is not only because of food deserts and prices but also because less chain grocery stores build stores in these communities.
These statistics relate to climate change because as the weather gets worse and worse for agriculture, the prices of these goods will get higher as they become harder to produce. These prices will disproportionately affect families and communities who are already worse off because of low income and/or because they are marginalized,(Got green, Puget Sound Sage) and it will give wealthier people an exponential advantage against climate change. Naomi Klein explains how this happened from war reconstruction efforts in her book on fire and says “If we defer to central governments in that way in the face of the climate crisis, we should expect highly corrupt measures that further concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few big players, not to mention systemic attacks on human rights, a phenomenon I have traced repeatedly in my work on disaster capitalism in the aftermath of wars, economic shocks, and extreme weather events”. If we as the citizens neglect climate change as an issue and just let whatever government we have make an attempt to fix it, people who are already struggling could end up in a worse situation and those who aren’t will reap the advantages.
How are People Helping?
Got green helped to get Seattle to pass a sugary drink tax. While they are following seven other cities on this tax, they are the first to suggest that the money from this tax be put into trying to close the food security gap and helping to get healthy food to people. Got Green’s Sweetened Beverage Tax helps to fund a program called Fresh Bucks and the Healthy Food Availability & Food Bank Network Report for Seattle.
Fresh Bucks was created to help low income people get access to healthier foods by giving them vouchers at farmers markets and the like. SNAP helps to reduce food insecurity as well but some people do not qualify for SNAP so Fresh Bucks is an option for them to get food and for that food to be healthy.