The companies that feed America brace for labor shortages and worry about restocking stores as coronavirus pandemic intensifies

Anyone who has gone to the grocery store this week has likely been greeted by empty aisles and somewhat frantic fellow shoppers, trying to figure out what to buy and where. It was an eerie feeling for me, something out of a Will Smith movie. It was also unfortunate to find all of my 18 mo old son’s food groups - bread, pasta, bananas, eggs, and whole milk - were bare (mac and cheese and chicken nuggets it is...) In times like this it’s easy to spiral into end of days thoughts. We’re going to run out of food. The supply chain is totally hosed. We need to stock up!

The reality is slightly different.

Food producers and supply chain managers say there is generally enough nonperishable food on shelves, in warehouses and on the production line to last several months, but the challenge could soon be getting that food to the right places once local distribution centers are wiped out.
In addition, millions of Americans who previously got food at restaurants or in school or at work cafeterias will have to serve themselves at home, with food bought from grocery big-box enterprises.
Although grocery stores may struggle in the short term to keep shelves stocked, some experts say current shortages are temporary supply-chain glitches. American stockpiles of basic foods are strong, they say. Lowell Randel, vice president of government and legal affairs for Global Cold Chain Alliance, which provides temperature-controlled storage and distribution to 1,300 companies in 85 countries, says he sees no supply problems.

Buy what makes you comfortable, stock up as desired, but remember that there is more coming. And, when you go into the grocery store (or any store that’s open really) over the next few weeks, please thank the employees working there.


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