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

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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