HONOLULU (February 26, 2020) – Hawaii Foodbank is voicing concerns about food panic buying in response to emergency planning for COVID-19. In response to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warning that the virus will likely start spreading in the United States, the State Department of Health is advising residents to prepare a family plan that includes a 14-day supply of food, water and medications.
Food banks in Asia have made the decision to remain open to continue serving those in need but are currently experiencing setbacks due to drops in volunteers and the flow of food donations negatively impacted or restricted because of panic buying and stockpiling by consumers. In some areas, total food donation volume is down by 50 percent.
“Panic buying is a real concern but thankfully we have not seen it here yet,” said Hawaii Foodbank President and CEO Ron Mizutani. “We receive donated items from local retailers, grocers and farmers that are not sold or nearing expiration, but if products start flying off shelves, the potential hit on the amount of food donations we receive could be devastating.”
To discourage stockpiling, some retail outlets in Asia have placed limits on the purchase of high-demand items like rice. That has not yet happened in Hawaii, but consumers have wiped out the state’s supply of N95 masks.
“We can’t stop people from panic buying, but we ask people to please think of those in need when shopping because every day is a crisis for many families,” said Mizutani. “Most people will donate if their families have enough, but when people start hoarding out of fear, donations are the last thing on their minds.”
Mizutani says he and his staff are determined to fulfill their mission and ensure no one in Hawaii goes hungry.
“Seeing empty supermarket shelves can be extremely stressful for our vulnerable communities because they’re already financially struggling,” added Mizutani. “Food should be the last thing anybody worries about.”