COVID-19

Seeing empty grocery store shelves? Here’s why.

Kristin Schwab Mar 17, 2020
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One agriculture economics professor says we might have to change what we eat if grocery store supply chain disruptions continue. Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Seeing empty grocery store shelves? Here’s why.

Kristin Schwab Mar 17, 2020
One agriculture economics professor says we might have to change what we eat if grocery store supply chain disruptions continue. Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Grocery store shelves are going bare as people prepare for self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. Shelves are empty mostly because of logistics, getting food from manufacturers to warehouses to stores.

Ananth Iyer directs the Global Supply Chain Management Initiative at Purdue University. He says do not worry about the food supply itself. The grocery industry has up to four months’ supply of staples like beans, rice and canned goods.

“And that is a cushion that keeps this entire system going,” Iyer said.

Fresh foods don’t have that cushion. Grocers can’t stockpile them, and farmers can’t make them grow faster. A chicken takes three to four months from hatch date to dinner plate. So too much demand now may mean that the supply won’t keep up.

“We may change what we eat. We may move from more fancy foods to more basic foods,” said Miguel Gomez, professor of agriculture economics at Cornell University. He adds this could also happen to food we import.

“Global supply chains, because they are longer, they are more likely to be disrupted than domestic supply chains,” Gomez said.

In other words, things like avocados, bananas and coffee could become harder to find if this continues for months. But they’re also things we can live without.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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