Normally, Americans get a lot of their food from restaurants. In fact, during normal times 36 percent of all Americans eat at a fast food restaurant on any given day. But now that approximately 75 percent of the U.S. is under some sort of a "shelter-in-place" order and most of our restaurants have shut down, things have completely changed. Suddenly our grocery stores are being flooded with unexpected traffic, and many people are buying far more than usual in anticipation of a long pandemic. Unfortunately, our food distribution systems were not designed to handle this sort of a surge, and things are really starting to get crazy out there.
I would like to share with you an excerpt from an email that I was sent recently. It describes the chaos that grocery stores in Utah and Idaho have been experiencing…
When this virus became a problem that we as a nation could see as an imminent threat, Utah, because of its culture of food storage and preparing for disaster events seemed to "get the memo" first. The week of March 8th grocery sales more than doubled in Utah, up 218%. Many states stayed the same with increases in some. Idaho seemed to "get the memo" about four days later. We were out of water and TP four days after Utah. Then we were out of food staples about four days later. Next was produce following a pattern set by Utah four days earlier.
The problem for us in Idaho was this. The stores in Utah were emptied out then refilled twice by the warehouses before it hit Idaho. Many of these Utah stores have trucks delivering daily. So when it did hit Idaho the warehouses had been severely taxed. We had a hard time filling our store back up even one time. We missed three scheduled trucks that week alone. Then orders finally came they were first 50% of the order and have dropped to 20%. In normal circumstances we receive 98% of our orders and no canceled trucks. Now three weeks later, the warehouses in the Western United States have all been taxed. In turn, those warehouses have been taxing the food manufacturers. These food companies have emptied their facilities to fill the warehouses of the Western United States. The East Coast hasn't seemed to "get the memo" yet. When they do what food will be left to fill their warehouses and grocery stores?
Food distribution and resources for the Eastern United States will be at great peril even if no hoarding there takes place. But of course it will.
Additionally the food culture of the East Coast and other urban areas is such that people keep very little food on hand. They often shop several times weekly for items if they cook at home. They don't have big freezers full of meat, home canned vegetables in their storage rooms, gardens, or beans, wheat, and rice in buckets in the their basements.
With most of the country locked down, normal economic activity has come to a standstill, and it is going to become increasingly difficult for our warehouses to meet the demand that grocery stores are putting on them.