I had no idea how this pandemic would play out. I didn’t know lockdown would happen as swiftly as it did, that it would last as long as it has, and I sure as hell didn’t predict that nine months into it, we were going to start panicking again. With COVID numbers spiking and an incumbent administration that refuses to save their citizens, every sign points to statewide shutdowns. In anticipation of being asked to hole up for another few months, people are once again stocking up on what they consider essentials. Shelves are again bare of items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.
In the spring, the coronavirus pandemic triggered a wave of panic buying that left store shelves empty. Toilet paper, bottled water and paper towels were out of stock around the country, while shortages of eggs, meat and produce sent some prices skyrocketing.
Some things, like disinfectants, are still out of stock, but food makers and retailers told NBC News investigative correspondent Vicky Nguyen that they’re prepared for increased demand as coronavirus cases continue to surge.
“We’re working directly with our manufacturers to ensure that we do have adequate supply,” said Chelsea Minor, the corporate director of public affairs for Raley’s, a West Coast-based grocery chain. “There is plenty of food to go around, you may not have the exact products that you’re looking for, but there will be options, so be flexible.”
Jeff Harmening, the CEO of General Mills, said that the company has spent “tens of millions of dollars” to shore up their supply chain and add production lines for everything from cereal to soup to pet food.
“The supply chain is better than it has ever been,” he told Nguyen. “We ramped up production on all the things that have sold out and we’re highly confident that there will be product on the shelf available for consumers.”
Despite reassurances, the majority of shoppers are still concerned. 57% of shoppers surveyed nationwide said they are stocking up, and another 54% plan on creating a permanent stockpile.
“There’s clearly shortages,” one shopper told Nguyen. “Things aren’t coming through, I see this with all types of things.”
Another shopper said that if other people are stockpiling, she might start doing the same to avoid “running out of things.”
We are not yet in shutdown in California again , but it’s coming, especially when our governor can’t adhere to his own public assembly guidelines. So our stores are starting to clear out like the ones mentioned above. Signs limiting quantities are already up, which will hopefully keep more items on the shelves, but things are thinning. It surprises me. Maybe we had to adjust brands or couldn’t wait until the last minute on some items, but I don’t get the panic. I feel like we’ve forgotten everything we’ve learned over the last year. The way to get through this is to socially distance, wear masks, wash our hands, maintain a safe bubble and plan rationally – not stockpile tissue and Clorox wipes.
Still, if you are concerned and maybe you live in a smaller area that has less access, the article does offer some suggestions to prepare. They say to make a list of the items you need, which most people likely already do with a weekly shopping list. They suggest to go to the store early, but you will probably be looking at lines. Also, check if your store has senior hours to see what time they let the general public in. The article suggests calling stores to see if they have items in stock and where that might benefit you. I pity those poor, already-overworked store personnel having to field all those calls on top of everything else. They also suggest signing up at the sites NowInStock.net, BrickSeek.com, or Zoolert.com which tell you when hard to find items are in stock. There are tips about getting canned goods and frozen food, which makes me laugh a little because I still have the top shelf of my cabinet stuffed with all the stuff I bought at the start of lockdown and we never touched. I guess it’s there in case of emergency, though. The article said to coordinate with friends to pick up things and to shop in a safe collective.
The last tip, and this is the one we should all consider even if we are not panicking – if you are able to, please pick up an essential item or two or donate to a food bank this winter. It will be a rough one.
Photos credit: Anna Shvets via Pexels, John Cameron and Jake Leonard via Unsplash
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