Pandemic Brought on Food Supply Chain Disruptions

By now, pretty much everyone knows the food supply chain took a big hit during 2020.

There were several reasons for this. Including a number of extreme weather events. But the No. 1 problem was the coronavirus pandemic.

The most obvious sign that this was happening was empty or nearly empty grocery store shelves. Some of us had never witnessed this before in our local food stores.

One of the chief reasons for supply chain disruptions was workers becoming infected. I’ll get back to that in a moment. But another major cause for the slowdowns was how we changed our eating habits. 

A Healthy Balance, Until…

This is Day 5 of 4Patriots’ Pandemic Prep Week. Each day we’re providing you with information about the pandemic. Including tips and tricks on how to better deal with it.  

Today I want to discuss the “why’s” behind these food supply chain hiccups. And give you a nutritious way to avoid them while also gaining peace of mind.

Prior to 2020, the money people spent on food was divided roughly in half. About 50 percent was spent at retail outlets. Such as grocery stores and supermarkets.

 

The other approximately 50 percent went to food service companies. This includes restaurants, hospitals, hotels and schools.

50-50 Shifts to 75-25 

Food manufacturers and distributors were well aware of this delicate balance, of course.

Their business procedures were designed to reflect this 50-50 split. But as the coronavirus really started to take hold in the U.S. in March 2020, everything changed.

Consumer spending on food shifted dramatically. Thanks to physical distancing, restricted capacities, stay-at-home orders and various lockdowns.

Suddenly spending at grocery stores and supermarkets rose by 29 percent. Spending at sit-down restaurants, fast-food establishments and coffee houses declined by 27 percent.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

Now, our first thought might be, so what? Just send more food to retail outlets and less food to restaurants.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. For one thing, many food distribution companies only deliver food to grocery stores. Others only serve restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc.

But even for companies producing and/or delivering food to both retail outlets and restaurants, packaging is different. 

You can’t send food to a grocery store in the same manner that it’s prepared and transported to a restaurant.  

Cancellations Here, More Orders There

Food service providers for restaurants, hotels, etc., suddenly were hit with large numbers of cancellations. This left them with excess stock they had to scramble to try to keep fresh.

Companies providing food for grocery stores and supermarkets were asked to dramatically increase the amount of food they delivered.   

No wonder the food supply chain was so unsettled. When a system is in balance for a long period of time and then suddenly goes out of balance, there will be problems.

I’m surprised the food supply chain wasn’t negatively affected to an even greater degree.

Illnesses Cause Bottlenecks

As mentioned earlier, food production workers getting sick was another cause for food supply chain issues in 2020. 

In the spring, a number of food-processing plants actually had to shut down due to illness. Including Tyson’s biggest pork plant. Plus large facilities operated by Smithfield Foods.

These shutdowns slowed production. And that led to grocery store shelves being stripped bare. And when limited deliveries were made, rationing went into effect.

More recently, a number of states issued shutdown orders to restaurants. Or insisted they limit capacity. Or offer outdoor seating only.

 

This has made people more dependent on grocery stores for food than they were before. Which puts an additional strain on the food supply chain.

Farmers Face Challenges

And it wasn’t just the “big guys” who had to adjust to workers getting sick. It happened on farms as well.

A vast majority of farms are located in rural areas. So there is a limited amount of skilled labor to pick up the slack.

Another way farmers suffered from the pandemic was a drop in grain prices. That occurred after the demand for oil decreased. 

Only three in 10 agricultural workers in America are U.S. citizens. Farmers are dependent on migrant workers. Agricultural visa programs have been affected by the coronavirus.  

Survey Says We’re Concerned

Menu Matters recently conducted a survey. It revealed that nearly one-half of American consumers are concerned about the food supply chain.

That’s not surprising, considering that 98 percent of meat processed in the U.S. goes through only 50 plants.

Nearly 75 percent of consumers are worried about catching the virus while grocery shopping.

And nearly 50 percent say they sometimes use either pickup or delivery services.

Weather Contributes Too 

Extreme weather also muddled the food supply chain. With record-setting number of hurricanes and wildfires. But the pandemic was the bigger culprit. 

Violent weather only affects certain geographic areas at a time. The coronavirus impacts the entire country. Not to mention the world.

Weather issues are usually only short-term problems. The pandemic has sickened and killed Americans for more than a year now. And it looks like there is plenty of suffering ahead.

The food supply chain has adjusted, but the new variants of the virus are causing concern. 

The best way to gain food security for you and your family is by stockpiling plenty of nutritious survival food. 

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