The recent surge of panic-buying set off by the spread of the coronavirus has left store shelves bare of many staples. But grocery retailers say that there are no actual food shortages and that their supply chains remain operational.
“The food supply is not in jeopardy,” said Mona Golub, a spokeswoman for Price Chopper Market 32 Inc., which operates a supermarket in Saugerties. “We are getting shipments on a daily basis, we are servicing our stores on a daily basis.”
Despite that assessment, in many local markets aisles, staple items like pasta, canned goods, cleaning supplies and toilet paper remained bare through the weekend and into this week. The shortages stem from stockpiling — some would say hoarding — by shoppers alarmed by the sudden cascade of government-ordered shutdowns that have brought everyday life in the Hudson Valley to a virtual standstill. The run on supplies began in earnest on Friday after County Executive Pat Ryan announced a two-week shutdown of all Ulster County schools.
“It feels like a holiday except people aren’t smiling and shaking hands,” said Mike Paesano, who manages Adams Fairacre Farms’ location in Lake Katrine. “Like Christmas, but not Christmas.”
Golub said that in addition to keeping deliveries flowing, the chain was also monitoring demand in anticipation of population shifts, as thousands of downstate residents head to their second homes in the Hudson Valley to ride out the crisis.
While larger chains like Price Chopper maintain dedicated warehouses to keep shelves stocked, smaller retailers like Adams must rely on a network of vendors. Paesano said that network had been stretched thin by increased demand related to coronavirus fears. One vendor, he said, had already missed a delivery while others were placing limits on orders of high-demand items.
“The vendors are calling the shots, we’re just trying to get as much as we can,” said Paesano. “But they’re just trying to regroup.”
Paesano and Golub both said that their stores were taking additional steps to protect the health and safety of employees and the public. The Price Chopper in Saugerties, which normally operates around the clock, is now shutting down between 1 and 6 a.m. to allow for additional cleaning and restocking. At Adams, meanwhile, conveyor belts, shopping carts and other equipment is wiped down with bleach continuously throughout the day. Many chains have instituted seniors-only hours and have suspended return, refund and raincheck policies.
“We recognize the role that we play in the communities we serve,” said Golub. “And we expect and intend to fulfill that role.”