Coronavirus

Trump Urges No Hoarding as Coronavirus Panic Strains Grocery Stores

The administration and food retailers say the supply chain is strong, despite long lines and empty shelves at stores.

A produce section at a local grocery store in Burbank, Calif., is picked clean after panicked shoppers swept through, stocking up on supplies in fear of the coronavirus.

The Trump administration and grocery industry leaders say the U.S. food supply chain is holding up despite heavy strain amid worries over the coronavirus outbreak, which has cleared out shelves of nonperishable foods, household cleaners, and essentials.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump held a phone call with food industry executives to discuss how they’re managing the growing crisis. Grocers have been reducing hours, deep-cleaning their stores and offering disinfectant wipes to shoppers. They are also limiting purchases per customer of hand sanitizers, toilet paper, and other high-demand products.

During a news conference Sunday evening, Trump said grocery firms had urged him to communicate the message to consumers to avoid panic-buying. “You don’t have to buy so much,” he said. “There’s no need for anybody in the country to hoard essential food supplies.”

He claimed there are “no shortages” at stores but people are “buying three-to-five times what they normally buy.”

On the call with top grocers, food manufacturers and agribusinesses, Trump said stores can help Americans “feel calm and safe when shelves are stocked with the items they need” amid the outbreak, according to a readout provided by the White House.

Leslie Sarasin, president of FMI, the food industry association formerly known as the Food Marketing Institute, said the administration and industry are on the same page about making sure that “stores can stay open and stocked.”

Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket chain, said it is working with suppliers to more quickly replenish scarce items. Texas-based chain H-E-B is limiting purchases of food items from canned soup and beans to milk, eggs, and chicken.

Whole Foods is suspending its food sampling. Giant is urging customers to bring their own shopping bags because of the strain on their own supplies.

Sarasin added that retailers are also “seeking to be sensitive to the needs of all our customers and partners, including our WIC and SNAP shoppers and the food banks our stores support,” referring to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

Greg Ferrara, president of the National Grocers Association, assured the public that its members have dealt with emergencies, namely natural disasters.

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