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Food is the only constant this Thanksgiving

Compared to other years, this Thanksgiving the only thing the same at our house is the food.

As usual, we bought a turkey and all the trimmings, all products of Ontario or Canada. We thought about how lucky we are to have access to such amazing food, and looked forward to sharing it with family and friends… again, like we always do.

But over the last week, ours plans – like yours, I suspect – have changed radically. Our family, comprising mostly teachers and students, won’t come together in the same way. We’ll still cook a meal and give thanks, but thanks for family immediately follows thanks for the food at our table’s grace.

And if we follow experts’ advice like we should and celebrate only with family members that live in our house, our table is going to have empty chairs. We’re told we can have up to 10 people in our bubble for a gathering inside, as long as we practice social distancing, but our house just isn’t big enough to meet those standards.

That’s a tough pill to swallow. In a lifetime, there are only so many Thanksgivings. And I know a lot of people, me included, who consider this their favourite holiday. It’s totally focused on family and food, the season is spectacular and commercialism is at a minimum.

But despite the drawbacks, we all have many blessings to count this Thanksgiving.

Heading into the second wave of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we know so much more than we did last winter when the first wave hit.

First, we know there’s no need for panic buying. We know our grocery stores will keep us supplied with what we need. You may encounter some shortages – and indeed, a recent consumer poll indicated many of us did during the first wave. But we also know it doesn’t take forever for those shortages are addressed, especially if we all buy just what we need.

And here’s more good news: grain production worldwide in 2020-21 will be at near-record levels. A week ago the London, UK-based International Grains Council predicted wheat, corn and soybean crop production globally will rise to almost 2.23 billion tonnes.

Home bakers will be glad to hear that. The council says risks to supply – an earlier concern, with flour in particular being snapped up and suppliers struggling to find enough packaging – are diminishing. Grain stocks around the world are up seven million tonnes to 629 million tonnes.

So, it appears most of us have enough food… at least on paper.

In reality though, that’s not the case. The economic hammer that accompanied the pandemic continues to pound on employment. Right now, the United Nations World Food Programme estimates the pandemic has doubled the number of people in the world who are considered acutely food insecure.

At the Wall Street Journal’s Global Food Forum Monday, a UN representative said 270 million people are in need of food or cash to buy food. It estimates 500 million jobs have been lost worldwide.

We know this situation is not confined to people in other countries. Food banks here are straining.

We need to be diligent about making sure as much support as possible is going not only to those who consume food, but to those who produce it, as well.

Through the pandemic, we’ve learned more about the many players in food production, from farmers and suppliers to processors and grocers.

It’s a chain that almost always works, one that we can be particularly thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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