America faces an unprecedented food shortage in its most tender spot, babies. The infant formula shortage in the U.S. has activated a Cold War era law to prioritize and speed up its production. In addition to it, U.S. Air Force flights have transported tons of imports of baby food from Europe in what is called “Operation Fly Formula.” It could have been a beautiful story if it were not so tragic and real. It touches a sensitive nerve so we can rebuild society as a human safety net for everyone in the world.
Week after week, parents and caregivers in America have traveled across states looking for baby formula only to find scarce supplies or empty shelves. The ongoing shortage of powdered baby formula in the U.S. has been caused by pandemic-related disruptions in the global supply chain and by the shutdown of the largest production plant of Abbott Nutrition, the main supplier to the US market, due to contamination concerns.
How could such a crisis hit strong America? After all, it is not a developing country. It is a superpower that should be immune to such a crisis of an essential good. But this will not be an isolated incident. We will soon see many similar phenomena as a result of multiple variables affecting today’s world.
The baby food crisis in the U.S. shows us that no country, big or small, rich or poor, is immune to food insecurity. No one can guarantee stability for the provision of the most basic needs for everyone, including to sustain children’s lives. This is the unstable and vulnerable reality we live in today; more and more people and countries will be affected and will demonstrate how shaky the world is, as if teetering on one foot.
We need to open our eyes and see that human society was not built as a system of mutual security with food and children as our primary concern. We failed to plan for the bad times during the good times. If we do not admit it, then our supply problems will only deepen.
Our battered planet is able to give us everything, but we do not give it a chance to provide us with what is necessary, including food for the soul needed due to our broken human relationships. We spoil everything we touch due to our growing egoism that prevents us from being considerate of others.
The purpose of this crisis is to shake us up and make us grow to understand that we have no choice, that in the scale of priorities, before money, respect and education, we must make sure that every person in the world gets proper nutrition.
So, besides baby formula, in terms of food security in general, we can choose fertile areas like in Siberia or South America and turn them into global grain fields that provide everything for everyone. The only condition is that there is a real desire to feed and benefit everyone without transforming it into someone’s personal business for individualistic profit at the expense of others suffering.
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) teaches us, “If there is no flour, there is no Torah.” Indeed, food should be the basis of our human concern. If we are not able to provide bread for everyone, we will not be able to row and elevate the human species to a level higher than the corporeal one, to the level of mutual care and balance. In such a state we will lack nothing and we will be able to guarantee a good future for our children and for all of society.