April 30, 2020

We've all seen the pictures. Milk being poured out, produce rotting in the fields. Why is this happening, and what can be done? Morning Joe takes a look.

Mika Brzezinski said America was already facing a food crisis. "There are so many Americans needing these food pantries. but in terms of the food supply and availability of food products, where are we headed?"

"Well, there's so many different sides to this story, Mika," Andrew Zimmern said.

"And it keeps getting crazier and crazier in my opinion. Because all of this was so easily predictable. There is ineptitude and a failure of leadership from the AG, from the USDA, from Washington and from the White House. There is a massive failure of leadership here. There is a corruption issue. There is a worker abuse issue.

"And quite frankly, all of this was predictable and solvable. There is technically enough food in America. The crops rotting in the fields that we've seen, that graphic that people are looking at now from the New York Times about the milk and the eggs and plowed vegetables, could have been -- was anticipated.

"It's simply, and I know this seems very cavalier, it's a matter of rerouting the distribution away from where that food was going, restaurants, schools and getting it to food pantries like you just saw, where you saw pallets of canned goods but not a lot of fresh vegetables and refrigerated goods. It is a massive shifting that has to do with trucking and where the food actually gets.

"This is -- people are now shopping at grocery stores and using delivery systems and food pantries and community resource kitchens and we're just not getting the food to them. And then on the flip side, you have the food factory coronavirus hot spot issue that is a hotbed of abuse, and one that, frankly, with the president voiding the CDC requirements and making them recommendations while at the same time forcing workers to work side by side under adverse conditions, in fact, conditions that will increase transmission of the virus, is going to cause an even greater problem.

"What it all comes down to is that it's, in a sense, less about the food, more about protecting the people or in the case of distribution, managing the people correctly. A complete failure of leadership."

Zimmern explained how the USDA and the Department of Agriculture can mandate changes.

"Remember, we have a Defense Production Act. We have trucks. We have drivers. We can do contactless pick-up and drop-off. It is simply a matter of the Ag department getting their act together and prioritizing that pickup. Now, I do have to say, cows give milk every day. Chickens lay eggs every day. These are -- those foods will, in a sense, be there tomorrow. Vegetables, obviously, on a cycle now as the weather is warming, are growing in regions creeping north.

"So people shouldn't be in panic mode yet or rushing to their grocer and trying to buy every perishable item that they can. The emphasis should be on making sure that Washington is connecting these farms and fields to the places where the people are actually picking up food, like food banks and community resource kitchens and grocery stores.

"This is all -- all the food you're seeing going to waste is the food that would have been going to the largest customers, schools and restaurants and other big places that have been shut down. Big cafeterias at corporations, things like that. the big buyers, the fast food chains."

He said it was a matter of re-routing the food to where it's needed.

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