The reality of food insecurity is no secret in America, and chief among the millions experiencing food insecurity are women. COVID-19 has shown us that in crises like this, existing inequalities are only amplified. Climate change will be no different.
The 2020 pandemic gives us a glimpse of what life will be like in a warming world. Globally, food production rates will fall due to lower crop yields, diminishing nutritional quality of foods, and ocean acidification. These changes will no doubt significantly impact people in the Global South, but will nonetheless create shifts in American food prices and food quality that disproportionately impact lower-income women, especially women of color.
What’s more, existing gendered wage and benefits gaps will widen, the burden of unpaid care work on women will increase, and with economic shocks that create a surge in unemployment rates, women are likely to lose their jobs at higher rates than men. And just like COVID-19, as finances and nerves are strained, rates of gender-based violence will skyrocket, putting women at increased risk of job loss and food sparing to avoid abusive reprisals, compounding women’s already tenuous navigation of food security.
Policies designed with women’s economic and health needs in mind could’ve protected women from the worst impacts of COVID-19, but the pandemic gives us an opening to build back more equitably, and national policy frameworks like a Feminist Green New Deal could go a long way toward shielding women from the worst impacts of climate change. Policies that compensate women for care work, strengthen women’s entrepreneurial efforts, decrease pay disparities, and give people the freedom they need to leave abusive relationships are just a start.
With the generous support of Maryruth Belsey Priebe, and her forthcoming published research, this brief aims to outline the ways that COVID-19 foreshadows climate change’s gendered impacts on food security. By mapping these impacts and understanding how these inequalities become more entrenched by crisis, we hope this brief services the creation of more equitable advocacy, policy and preparation.
Photo Credits: Anthony Albright