Amanda Radke: Food independence vital to America's future
Summer is in full swing, and that means grilling season is here! There’s nothing quite like a backyard barbecue with friends and family after putting in a hard day of work.
Unfortunately, for many Americans, the price tag on most food items is limiting the ability to have these gatherings.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices are up over 12% in June 2022 compared to the previous year.
Americans, who are used to spending less than 10% of their disposable income on food, are now feeling the crunch at the grocery store, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to fill in the gaps in food security for those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck with very little at the end of each month to purchase the basic necessities.
Now is a particularly vulnerable time for the one-in-four American children who are food insecure. Summer break means there’s no guarantee of one nutritious meal during the day like kids would have access to during the school year.
And instead of seeking solutions, we see both sides of the political aisle fighting over the root cause. Is the inflation we are seeing the result of ongoing COVID-19 impacts? Supply chain disruptions? Increased diesel prices? Labor shortages? Rising crime rates in urban areas where food is distributed and served? Too many regulations? Lack of resources? Political jockeying?
One could argue there are many causes, but what I’m focused on is how to encourage a culture of food sovereignty and independence in this country.
I think a lot of societal ills could be solved if more people spent time with their hands in the soil.
Previous generations worked the land, preserved what they grew, saved what they had, and were incredibly resourceful and innovative in order to make ends meet each year, despite hard times.
Many of the lessons of preservation, canning, gardening, growing, tending to chickens, raising eggs, bartering and reusing everyday items seem to be a long-lost art.
I must admit, I used to scoff at my great grandma for washing bread bags and reusing them for storing items. I never understood why she couldn’t toss things, and why she spent so much time planting the huge garden she did.
However, now that we are starting to see the fragility of our just-in-time delivery food system, I see more and more people paying closer attention to our basic essentials — food, fuel, fiber and energy.
A nation that can feed itself is strong. A nation that can supply its own energy is powerful. A nation where people have roofs over their heads is secure. A nation where people can afford clothing, groceries, electricity and water is prosperous. A nation where agriculturalists are allowed to grow food, where foresters are able to harvest timber, where drillers are able to provide oil, well, that’s a nation that the rest of the world will respect and let lead.
I don’t know how we lost track, but I do know if we don’t start focusing on the basic essentials of life and prioritizing these things over anything else, well, we are certainly going to be headed for harder times in the not-so-distant future.
Friends, plant the seeds. Grow the food. Tend to your livestock. Trade, barter and sell in your local communities. Believe in the future. And fight for it. Food security is national security, and farmers and ranchers can and should lead the nation to ensure every American has access to safe and wholesome food.
Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily blog.