Dual supply chains: How the pandemic is creating an artificial food shortage

America is throwing away massive amounts of perfectly good food, especially meats and produce. It's a problem being highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic: we can't always get food to where it's needed due to logistical problems

Around the nation, desperately needed food in food banks and even increasingly in busy grocery stores, is being junked and dumped. That's because the nation has two food supply chains.

One is the food supply chain for grocery stores such as Safeway, super stores like Walmart and warehouse stores such as Costco properly packaged for family use.

Professor Daniel Sumner, a renowned food and agricultural economist at UC Davis says, the other supply chain is for commercial bulk foods sold to restaurants, schools and institutions; a market now gone.

“My best guess is about 25 to 30 percent of the food in general and of course it differs by product,” said Sumner.    

Because of the dual supply chains, each set up to do the same thing in two completely different ways, the coronovirus pandemic has created an artificial food shortage.

“Because you are just not set up for the packaging,” said the professor

So, there's no quick or simple way to redirect that food to grocery stores and, just as important, food banks, especially vegetables, meat, and dairy, foods with short shelf-lives.

“Those channels of distribution outlets are broken,” said Professor Ramesh Bollapragada, who said a lot of rules have to be waived to get the food where it needs to go “They have to quickly find ways to satisfy the demand at those new outlets. Proper planning in a week or so, it is possible.” said Bollapragada. “The guys in the business are working 24 hours a day scrambling like hell figuring out to get the products to the right places."

But, there are a myriad of very strict rules and regulations that apply in normal times about safely storing and repackaging bulk foods. In the conronavirus era, the risk of the virus spread dangerously increases.  

"If they screw up on food safety, they're out of business; just flat out of business,” added Professorf Sumner.

To the former Dean of Golden Gate University's Business School, the nation, if not the entire business world, will have to rethink and revamp the entire supply chain concept and said,

“Right now we've turned a very efficient system into a very inefficient system. We have to solve that problem on the fly.” And, there's no time to waste. “What does the farmer plant today? It's planting season,” said Dean Connelly.