U.S. food supply chain could face shortages

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NEW YORK — The nation’s food supply is under a coronavirus assault at both ends of its operating arc.

At the Hunts Point Food Market in the South Bronx, giant warehouses are quiet, fleets of trucks sidelined, a major food hub silenced. Restaurants and other regular food customers, dormant in this economically painful shutdown, just aren’t buying.

Lisa Rosenzweig works at one of the largest food suppliers in Hunts Point, where drastic times call for drastic measures.

“We opened up to basically the public now,” said Rosenzweig. “We don’t get as much as we used to anymore, because there’s no supplies able to come in.”

There’s also pain at the supply end of the operating arc, where food processing plants in particular are struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks among employees.

“For Americans who may be worried about access to good food because of this, I want to assure you the American food supply is strong, resillient and safe,” said US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, no relation to the Perdue chicken empire.

In the fields, however, a much starker reality, as farmers prepare for a tough upcoming spring and summer crop season.

Roger Noonan, a New Hampshire based direct to retail farmer, is also president of the New England Farmers Union.

“Those crops were grown for certain markets,” he said. “Those markets don’t exist. A lot of farms, especially farms that do specialty crops, the government calls fresh fruits and vegetables, require a lot of hand labor.”

“That labor usually comes from foreign countries,” he added.

Local supermarkets round out the coronavirus-impacted portrait of our nation’s food supply chain. Demand is obviously not a problem. But Nelson Eusebio of the National Supermarket Association says the way shoppers shop is.

“The trip to the supermarket, where it maybe used to be on the weekends or two times a week, in some cases now is a daily pattern for different families,” he said.

The good news? Back at Hunts Point, food warehouse co-op employee Lisa Rosenzweig says things are starting to turn around, slowly.

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