The Reset the Table essay series is published weekly, describing today’s challenges to global food security and proposing U.S. government responses.
The viability of cities has become a newsworthy issue during the Covid-19 pandemic as cities have been disproportionally affected by the virus and have faced immense health and economic pressures over the past eight months. Equally important is the fragility of food systems in cities, which has become more visible during this same period. Food price hikes, ranging from 10 percent for eggs in New York City to 22 percent for rice in Lagos, have pushed vulnerable households to reduce their food purchases or opt for cheaper, but unhealthier, food options. According to the Pew Research Center, 17 percent of adults in the United States have utilized food banks, and cities in Africa and Europe have seen similar figures. These trends are further exacerbating “hidden hunger”—vitamin and mineral deficiencies—as well as decreasing immunity levels and fostering dietary-related health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.