Trump: Stop hoarding food and supplies. "Take it easy. Just relax."

Someone had to say it. People are over-shopping in preparation for the spread of the coronavirus. In order to reassure the American people that there is no disruption in the food and supply chain across the country, President Trump offered some words of advice. “You don’t have to buy so much.”

On Sunday, President Trump held a call with two dozen executives from consumer and grocery companies including Target, Campbell, and Costco. The topic of discussion was hoarding and the safety of their supply chain as we face the coronavirus crisis. During a press conference he urged the American public to ease up on shopping for food and supplies like cleaning products and other household supplies.

“You don’t have to buy so much,” Trump said. “Take it easy. Relax.”

He added: “Go and buy. Enjoy it. Have a nice dinner. Relax.”

We’ve all seen the pictures of empty shelves in grocery stores or big box stores like Target and Costco. There are plenty of videos of scuffles in store aisles or check-out lines as tempers flare. Americans are nervous. The uncertainty of knowing how long the new normal will last or how bad the COVID-19 outbreak will be in our own communities is the cause of panic purchasing. Trump’s message is don’t panic, the supply chain is safe and retailers are working to keep up with demand. America does not have a food shortage.

“The President reminded the participants that this is an all-of-America approach and each of their stores and the stores they support can help Americans feel calm and safe when shelves are stocked with the items they need,” a White House spokesman said.

“Supply chains in the United States are strong, and it is unnecessary for the American public to hoard daily essentials,” he added.

A spokesperson for Campbell said, in the meeting, the company “outlined the steps we are taking to ensure the health and safety of our employees and how we are meeting the increased demand for our foods in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

No one needs a six month supply of toilet paper or paper towels. If you’re worried about feeling symptoms like sneezing, there is no need to buy out the shelf of facial tissues. The panic we’re seeing is much like that of what happens when a hurricane is predicted or a snowstorm. When people think they may not be able to get out and purchase necessities and food items, they overreact and then the shelves are empty. Some retailers are limiting purchases in order to manage inventory of the most in-demand products. Amazon reports it is out of some household items – I assume that includes toilet paper since that is what many Amazon customers are complaining about – and large chain grocery stores like HEB here in Texas are limiting purchases, including eggs, boxed pasta, and canned soup.

President Trump agreed during the call with the business executives to hold off for six months on new regulatory decisions that could hinder the supply chain. Consumer Brands Association, an industry trade group, lobbied for funds in upcoming supplemental appropriations to “mitigate supply chain disruptions and help manage shortages.” The trade group manages such companies as Clorox and Lysol, popular brand names in cleaning products. The Association also wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer encouraging them to push back on global export restrictions on products used to treat or prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In Los Angeles, public officials are urging people not to panic shop.

In my own city, the mayor is meeting with state and local grocery store chain representatives to receive updates on water and food supplies, store hours, etc. He plans to hold a press conference to get the information out this morning.

I know HEB, the store I usually patronize, has run low on bottled water because the driver who delivered our grocery order last week mentioned it. The store our order came from was out of bottled water, which is nuts because Houston has safe drinking water. We use a disposable water filter system that produces a pitcher of water so I wasn’t ordering bottled water anyway. Filtered tap water is fine and city tap water won’t be disrupted during this public health crisis. In my last order – I use a grocery delivery service app – I couldn’t get a loaf of bread, spaghetti pasta, and pasta sauce that I ordered. We will see what happens with the order I placed this weekend which will be delivered Tuesday afternoon. Delivery services offered by the stores and apps (like Instacart, which I use) are scrambling to keep up with demand. I placed our order Saturday, expecting a delay, and the earliest delivery time offered was Tuesday between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. I have already received an update explaining that the delivery will be late, likely by 3:00 p.m. It’s fine.

It is good that the president specifically asked people to try to remain calm and not hoard. With more people staying home and restaurants closing, cooking at home will increase which puts more strain on grocers. We just have to learn to manage the needs of our families with our shopping decisions. And, I’ll take this opportunity to ask that you remember to tip your delivery person a bit extra if you use one of the home delivery services while we are all hunkering down. We are all in this together.