Pandemic puts strain on America’s food supply

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WASHINGTON- The food supply chain is holding up under the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic . . . so far. But experts are not sure how long the system can survive under the pressure.

“It started off as a health crisis and it’s really led to an economic crisis as well,” said U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, (D) Alabama.

As members of Congress, such as Alabama’s Sewell, work on additional ways to combat the economic side effects of the coronavirus, experts in Washington say the next impact could be on the food supply chain.

“The entire supply chain was emptied out from the stores back to the distribution centers back to the manufacturers,” said Cheryl Druehl, an associate professor at George Mason University.

Druehl says right now grocery stores are meeting the demand and keeping most of their shelves stocked. Manufacturers are already shifting production to focus on higher-need items.  But those changes could bring new problems.

“The bigger concern is the financial stability of those smaller producers and even some of the large ones as well,” Druehl said.

Druehl warns if layoffs start happening at the production level,  limited supply may force small grocers to close and larger stores to start enforcing widespread rationing.

Even if the supply chain holds,  many Americans are already worrying about how to pay for the food they need.

“The unemployment rates have skyrocketed. They’re higher than ever,” said Heather Taylor, with the organization Bread for the World.

 Taylor is asking Congress to pump more money into food assistance programs to help the millions of new people who may need those benefits to buy food.

“Clearly, this pandemic will last for months, but the recovery process will extend even longer,” said Taylor. Sewell says that increased funding could be part of the next stimulus bill. Democrats such as Congresswoman Sewell are pushing to include that increased funding in the next stimulus bill. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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