Disaster Cooking 101: The Limits of Our Changing Food System

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Editor's Note: Last year, an enormous blizzard blanketed much of the Midwest on Groundhog's Day. An estimated 46 tornadoes touched down in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Kentucky, killing nine on April 4th and 5th. A 300-percent increase in the amount of rainfall in the Ohio valley pushed the Mississippi River over 45 feet, and thousands of homes were evacuated. It was a record year for weather-related problems -- a new record was set when the 12th natural disaster to cost more than $1 billion swept across the states.

There are plenty of places across the country that weren't directly affected by the flooding, tornadoes, and snow. But we've all been affected in another way: The disasters -- and our shifting climate, in general -- have dramatically changed food production systems in the U.S.

For example, "Hurricane Irene flattened feed crops, flooded farms, and racked up over $10 million worth of damage in Vermont alone," according to the Climate Desk's James West. "They had trouble just reaching the farms because there were road closures due to the storm, so that impacted a lot of the dairy products -- and that's why Lidia had a course based on that," adds CNN's Bonnie Schneider, who is working with restauranteur and celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich on a one-of-a-kind class. "So the way is to preserve the milk in other ways -- and that is to cure it, to make cheese out of it," Bastianich says of Vermont's problem. "I remember my grandmother, she cooked it again, she took the whey, added a little bit of milk and made ricotta -- ri-cotta, re-cooked."

In the video below, West visits Bastianich and Schneider's class, which teaches students how to recycle food and work within the limits of our changing food system.

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The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration between The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Slate, and others, dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. Learn more at theclimatedesk.org.

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