If you have a large cache of stored foods and perhaps also a survival garden, you are well-prepared for any disaster scenario that disrupts the food supply. But a certain problem is inevitable. Most persons do not store food. Most homes do not have a vegetable garden. So when the SHTF, the neighbors will come asking for food. How to handle that situation is the subject of this post.
I’m not convinced of any one plan as the best response to this situation. So I’m discussing the problem and possible solutions. Feel free to give your own opinion in the comments section.
In the case of a vegetable garden, I think it will be impossible to keep people from stealing food. Desperate people do desperate things. But it would not take much desperation for people to begin taking food from their neighbor’s garden. I imagine that, when food is scare, groups of people will go from street to street seeking gardens and stripping them bare.
Guarding your garden with firearms and shooting anyone who takes the food is just not a viable option. I don’t think it’s moral, and it probably is not legal, to use deadly force in that situation.
I suppose you might try to grow foods more resistant to garden theft. Chufa (tigernut) is a root crop that looks like an ornamental grass above ground. The food part is a small tuber, smaller than a walnut and larger than an almond. It might not be recognized as food by non-botanists. Quinoa is a grain that is coated with saponins. If anyone steals the food and eats it without proper preparation (a thorough rinsing of the grain to remove the saponin coating), then they will get sick from the food. This might deter some uninformed hungry persons. Leaf crops like cabbage, kale, lettuce, leeks might fare well when garden theft become common. It is not the type of food that hungry people will prefer to take.
But overall, your garden is going to be very vulnerable to food theft.
Your neighbors might not know that you are a prepper. And they won’t know which foods or how much food you have stored. But eventually, this information will leak out. Your closest friends or family members will know, and they might mention it to their closest friends. And at some point your neighbors will find out.
One possible response is to try to keep all your stored food for yourself. I suppose you could defend your home and food with firearms. But if you over-react, you will end up in prison. If you call the police, the officers might suggest that you share your food with them.
It seems to me that, if the situation is not too dire, you can live off of your stored food and maybe some gardening food. But beyond a certain point, you will have a very difficult time defending your food from desperate hungry persons.
Another response is to share your food with close friends, family, and neighbors. The problem is that no prepper can store enough food for everyone he knows and all his neighbors. Too few persons are prepping. You will quickly run out of food.
If you ration the food that you give away, the same process occurs. You still do not have enough food for all the persons who would line up at your door for the handout.
If you both ration the food you give away, and choose only a few persons to give food, you might be able to give away some food without depleting your own supplies. But the problem is that people will find out you are giving away food. And they may insist, harass, or demand some food for themselves.
I suppose a better option is to barter or sell rations of food. I’m not sure about the legality of selling food from your home, or even bartering. And I suspect that the local authorities will try to make selling food privately illegal, because they will want control of the food supply. But if you can do so (legally), then bartering or selling might be a good option. That way you are not left bereft of food, money, and supplies.
If a food disaster is relatively brief and limited in scope, your stored food and garden will serve you well. But beyond a certain level of severity, you won’t have enough food, or you won’t be able to retain it. So the only solution in such a situation is at the community level.
The community is perhaps a town, or a subsection of a town, or maybe a set of towns close together. Hypothetically, they could make due with at least 1/4 acre of arable land per person — ONLY IF they choose the right crops and obtain a good yield. But good yields require artificial fertilizer and sufficient rain or irrigation and well-tilled soil. Good yields on a large scale require mechanized agriculture. Otherwise, they will obtain low yields and need up to an acre of land per person.
A square mile of land is 640 acres. That amount of arable land will feed somewhere between 2,560 and 640 persons (0.25 to 1.0 acres per person, or 4 to 1 persons fed per acre). But how much of the land in any town is available for planting? If it is a tenth of the land, then the population density needs to be 64 to 256 persons per square mile. Otherwise, you don’t have enough land to grow food.
Take a look at this map of U.S. population density. The darker the shading, the less likely there will be enough land to grow food for the population locally. The Midwest fares best, with plenty of land to feed their populations. The Western U.S., other than the more heavily populated areas would fare well, except for the current severe drought there. Several large areas in the Eastern U.S. cannot support their populations with local agriculture. And of course any major city plus its suburbs will not have enough arable land.
A food shortage is inevitable. It’s only a matter of when it will happen and how severe it will be. So along with your stored food, you should be storing seeds for planting. Especially grain amaranth.