SEATTLE -- It's not just meat processors, but local farmers are also being hit hard by this pandemic. The bottom line, industry experts say, the food supply chain is strong and the empty shelves at our grocery stores will be restocked.
Going to your regular grocery store never looked so different. Sometimes finding what you’re used to is harder than ever before.
Jan Gee, president of the Washington Food Industry Association, blames most of the shortages on customer hoarding.
“Our suppliers have had to change their whole manufacturing process,” she said. “Instead of producing five different sizes of toilet tissue, they’ve cut it down to two.”
Major meat producers announced multiple shutdowns due to viral infections. Gee says those facilities like many other manufacturers will have to adapt to keep workers safe and resume production.
“We didn’t have an emergency plan in place for a pandemic and so we scrambled and found solutions,” she added.
The pandemic might be pushing customers away from big-box grocery stores to look for other local options.
Dozens of Covid infections were also recently discovered in workers at a Wenatchee fruit farm.
Their employers told Q13 News in a release they have taken steps to keep workers safe and treat the ill, adding there’s still enough fruit in storage to avoid shortages.
“There definitely seems to be more interest,” said Bob Bois who helps manage the Snoqualmie Valley Farmers Cooperative.
Groups like his highlight local farms in King County that can offer alternatives to the regular grocery store.
Dairy and meat products are also produced locally and industry advocates say more customers are seeking out new sources
“It’s becoming obvious to a lot more consumers just how important our food system is,” said SnoValley Tilth executive director Jill Farrant. “We’re seeing a lot of shifts towards those seeking out these direct sales options.”
While industry leaders insist grocery stores won’t run out of food any time soon, local farmers say they can offer peace of mind. Sometimes just knowing where your food comes from and who grows it can ease tension.
“This cooperative is here to build, strengthen the local food chain here,” said Bois. “We’re working as hard as we can bring to you all the food we can grow.”
This week Representative Kim Shrier asked for billions of dollars in aid to help local farmers struggling with bad weather, increased operating costs and market uncertainty during the pandemic. Part of that relief could also go to local food banks.