Millions of stranded travelers have clogged European airports this week as ash from the volcano eruption in Iceland has made it unsafe for planes to take to the air. The travelers aren’t the only ones waiting to board a plane, though. Fruits and vegetables grown in other parts of the world, particularly Kenya, are rotting and being dumped because they can’t make it to their European destinations.

The effects are far reaching. The UK Guardian reports that Kenya’s produce and flower farmers are losing an estimated $1.3 million each day. Tons of food and flowers have been dumped already. About 5,000 workers have been laid off, and thousands more face the threat of losing their jobs. The long-term effects on the nation of Kenya may be devastating.

In the UK, consumers are seeing the other side of this dilemma. A shortage of fresh produce is making consumers anxious. Whenever there’s a fear of a shortage, people run out and stockpile. The asparagus, grapes, green onions, and fruit salads on the supermarket shelves are going quickly.

We all know how quickly those foods can spoil, and I can only hope that those who are buying them up don’t let them go to rot in the crisper.

One commenter in the UK Guardian, Dan Roberts, notes that while this is probably a temporary problem, it should be seen as an opportunity for businesses to consider alternatives because climate change and fuel shortages may disrupt air travel more permanently in the future. These kinds of disruptions won't effect only food deliveries from afar, but deliveries of all goods.

It’s not just businesses that should be thinking about this; individuals should be, too. What would you do if your region was cut off from certain food deliveries? If you were forced to rely on a more local diet, could you adapt?

I gave it some thought last night. I think an important step in adapting to that kind of situation is to maintain and share the knowledge of those local foods — what they are, how to grow them, how to store them and how to prepare them.

I’m not saying we need to tear up our lawns, plant enough food to last the year, learn how to preserve, and stockpile it in a locked garage all within the next six months (although if you want to, have fun — it will be good for you and the Earth). I’m saying we need to educate ourselves and pass that knowledge down to the next generation.

Maybe we need to accept that we can’t have every worldly culinary delight 365 days a year, figure out what culinary delights we can have that are within our geographical reach, and make those the center of our diets. Then, if in the future, climate change or a fuel shortage means that here in New Jersey we can’t get avocados to make guacamole, we can make asparagus guacamole and not feel deprived.

What are your thoughts on how to begin adapting now in case our food sources change in the future?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Ash from volcano strands produce
Tons of fruit and vegetables can’t make it to their destinations. Is this wasted food also food for thought for our future?