Over the last two years, the pandemic has created major disruptions in the food industry. From COVID outbreaks to shipping delays to labor shortages, it’s been a challenging time to say the least. Despite these hardships, the food supply chain has never truly failed us thanks to 20 million people who continue to work in food production, distribution and service. Many of these employees are not public-facing, but instead work behind the scenes with little recognition or gratitude.
Dr. Robyn Metcalfe, a lecturer in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Metcalfe specializes in the study of food systems design and is the author of the new book, Humans in Our Food. She says that one silver lining of the pandemic is that it opened more people’s eyes to the importance of the food supply chain.
Remember in spring of 2020 when toilet paper and baker’s yeast were flying off the shelves? Entire aisles were picked empty and there was little variety to choose from. It was chaos and left many people longing for the boring normalcy of their usual shopping trips. Even today, some markets and restaurants are still dealing with kinks in the supply chain that limit food selection and timely restocks.
In the wake of a national labor shortage, a growing number of companies are also moving more towards automation to fill certain jobs. In spite of this, looking ahead to the future, Metcalfe remains hopeful that people will still find their way into the food industry regardless. But, how they get there and the roles they take on may look a little bit different.
- Dr. Robyn Metcalfe, lecturer, College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Humans in Our Food.