The Truth About Empty Grocery Shelves and Product Shortages


The abundance of food in a grocery store is every bit as much a hallmark of Americana as Bugs Bunny and Major League Baseball, so it’s eerie to see those shelves bare. What exactly is going on here? First, we're not running out of food. There are plenty of pigs and enough chickens for every pot. There’s also plenty of wheat, but it has to be ground, baked into bread, and delivered. Before you can eat a sausage, somebody has to slaughter a pig, cut it up, and get it onto the shelves. That’s where things bottleneck. The distribution system isn’t designed for everyone to buy everything at once. There’s only so much space on the shelves in every store, and it takes a while for grocers who need more products to figure out who has excess and negotiate a new deal. So what’s going on with toilet paper? Actually, panic buying is no longer to blame. The larger issue is that supply chains aren’t cut out for the shift in demand. If a grocery store has one semi-truck showing up at their back door from the warehouse, what do you tell the warehouse to fill that truck up with? Toilet paper is big and bulky: It doesn’t take a lot to fill up the back of a semi truck. If your choices are toilet paper or bread and pasta you are going to choose the bread and pasta. Things will get back to normal in the near future. In the meantime, try to remember that everything can’t happen at one time, and patience goes a long way.