OPINION

‘Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.’ – dispelling fear during the coronavirus

By Fiona Windle

- Last updated on GMT

‘Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.’ - dispelling fear during the coronavirus

Related tags: coronavirus, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, New zealand

Head of nutrition at Beef + Lamb New Zealand and chair of the human nutrition and health committee at the International Meat Secretariat Fiona Windle discusses the challenges facing the global meat industry during the coronavirus crisis.

In a world of divided views, at the very core of the current crisis, it is fear that unites us. 

In a short space of time our lives have been thrown in disarray.  In some instances, the fear may be slowly starting to dissipate, while for many it’s just the beginning of a tough road ahead.  It’s an uncomfortable feeling that sits in the pit of my stomach knowing there is going to be more people than ever needing additional support than may be possible to fulfil, despite many of us willing.

One of our basic human needs, and a gift shown with love and humanity is that of food.  Through our families, or those that welcome and serve us in hospitality settings and the frontline workers doing the hard yards in growing, processing and distributing our food.  Food is the gift that nourishes us, food brings people together; it can bring the best out of each other, and it can bring out the worst – such in times of war, famine and pandemics when our survival is threatened.

Our global food system has been under immense pressure to maintain food production and distribution with the challenges COVID-19 has thrown at it.  Hot spots along the supply chain buckling somewhat under pressure, worker safety at risk, back log of primary products and sadly food unable to reach human mouths, gone to waste, with food outlets temporarily closed.

The global meat industry has faced a myriad of challenges, no less the concerted efforts to balance worker safety with the need to keep processing, and the growing issues of animal welfare as farms have had to hold on to animals longer, putting a strain on feed allocation.  Coupled with adverse weather conditions of drought and flooding, the fallout of the brewing storm will require resilient manpower to mend the pieces.

The brave decisions made today to overcome the hurdles and fear we are facing in our global, national, local and community food systems have the potential to go down in history. Embracing a holistic food systems lens with more heads addressing an issue that was here well before the pandemic hit – enough good food for all.  This is more than filling stomachs with calories.  This is about getting the most nourishing and nutritious food that will strengthen us through this storm and beyond.  The global meat industry supplies more than quality protein that contributes throughout our lives, from thriving children to supporting positive aging.  A meal with meat brings to the table the very essential nutrients that play a role in strong immune systems - natural sources of iron, zinc and vitamins B12 and B6 from real food produced by our farmers and ranchers.

How can we work together to ensure consistent access to a range of nourishing core foods for those who need it most, and are likely to be suffering from shortfalls in nutrient adequacy, and therefore optimum health and well-being.  Particularly at a time when healthy bodies need to be fuelled with healthy foods to adequately support immunity. 

And how might we empower those who are privileged to be picky with their food options to look how their extra food dollars are spent when it comes to helping out a fellow citizen whose doing it much harder than they are? 

It is the fear that lies within us that I see being a key motivator at this time, sprinkled throughout the matrix and layers of our food system.  It is my hope that it will force it to improve in authentic, sustainably-minded and measured ways.

This is asking a lot from those at the coalface - our humble food heroes from the grassroots to every single person playing their part in getting food to our plates wherever we are in the world.  They do a lot and have been taken for granted in my opinion. It has been heartening to see the generosity during COVID-19 delivered from various players across the food sector. But the suffering will long continue when the virus is gone. With this in mind, are there ways of working better together longer term to reach a common goal of feeding the world well?

In this year of 2020 that will be marked in history, do we want to remember it for the year we most feared for our lives and livelihoods or would we like to look back and say that was the year we made bold and brave choices in our food system, and the world changed for better?

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