Originally published as a column on CFJC News Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, May 19, 2020.

A couple of weeks ago I went to pick up an order from the local Bulk Barn store. They are the revolutionary ‘bring your (any) container to refill’ buy-in-bulk business, but of course now the reusable container option is out the window so we’re back to single use plastic bags, which you can bundle together and take to recycling outlets, such as London Drugs.

It is still a good option for bulk staples. You order online and the next day you pick up your order at the door, card ready. Two weeks ago, while doing just that, I noticed a line-up at the fast food place across the parking lot.

I wondered about the future meals contained in those beans, seeds and nuts that I had just purchased, versus a meal for one or for a family, ordered through the drive-through for not much less than what I had paid for. That, of course, is but one aspect of it. Not opposing takeout; our family, like many other Kamloops residents, has been ordering the occasional cooked meal from locally owned restaurants, which nowadays is as much an act of social duty as can be.

The same day, the news about the Covid-19 outbreak at the Cargill plant in Alberta broke out. I thought of that drive-through line-up. Cargill is the exclusive supplier of beef, pork and eggs for McDonald’s in Canada and by now, the site of the largest coronavirus outbreak in North America. Some record, huh?

Since then, a few other meat processing plants have been affected by Covid-19 outbreaks, and as of late, 40 food inspectors in Canada have contracted the disease.

A side effect of this crisis is that it is exposing the wrongness of the food system. That American and Canadian farmers are killing animals because slaughterhouses and processing plants are affected by outbreaks, is unthinkable.

A smaller scale in Canada than in the States, but pointing to the same: the food production model needs to be changed fundamentally. It’s been said too many times that industrial food production comes with a price that we cannot afford – from how the animals are raised to the quality of food that results from it. Now, on top of that, we are facing the farming crisis created by the Covid-19 crisis.

An increased number of people are now relying on foodbanks to feed their families because they are laid off, and in a bitter irony, there are mountains of food being thrown away because the connection between producer and consumer has been disrupted. The elephant in the room is the gargantuan scale of the industrial food production. It’s too big a beast to be sustainable, no pun intended.

On the other hand, could it be that if farming operations were smaller and relying on local processing plants (also small scale,) to get their products to the market, a crisis caused by a pandemic – which will likely happen again in the future, experts say – would affect them and all of us less? I think so.

That brings us once again to the conversation about local economy. Imagine relying more than we do on the local economy. Imagine that in a crisis situation like the one we are in right now, the government issued funds will go to helping local farmers and food processors so they can get through the challenging times without losing their business, which would also ensure that the community they serve has access to food as needed.

Instead, a good chunk of money will go major food processors, many of which can afford to manage without any financial help. Countries like Denmark and Poland are refusing to bail out any companies that are registered in tax havens, and that should happen in all countries. With a depression looming, setting financial priorities right so those who truly need help get it would seem to be the logical path.

There has never been a better time to put our money into supporting the local economy. That means good healthy food, both vegetarian and omnivore fare, which translates fewer chronic afflictions which are lifestyle-induced but preventable. Really, we’d all win if we take a good look at where our food comes from and support a local-based economy. It’s a crisis, alright, but also an opportunity to change things for the better.