The California Grocers Association has a message for people flocking to the grocery stores to stock up on supplies amid the coronavirus crisis: Don’t buy so much.
As just about every California resident has seen in recent weeks, grocery store shelves have been eerily empty — especially missing staples like dry goods and toilet paper — as stores struggle to keep up with customer demand. Shelter-in-place orders came — first from six Bay Area counties, then later from Gov. Gavin Newsom — inspiring many worried shoppers to buy more than they need.
But the California Grocers Association, a nonprofit trade organization which represents 300 retailers statewide, said in a statement released March 24 that customers don’t need to keep filling their carts to the brim with excess foodstuffs.
“In these uncertain times, Californians can be assured that grocery stores will remain open and that food and essential supplies remain plentiful,” said president and CEO Ronald Fong in the statement. “The bare shelves you are occasionally seeing do not indicate lack of supply. It is a temporary result of consumers overbuying given the understandable worry right now.”
Fong said that customers should only purchase what they need for one week and should resist the tendency to overbuy.
The group launched a campaign to spread the word this week, dubbed #Enough4All, including a website and banners meant to be shared on social media, headed with the slogan “Buy Smart, Don’t Overfill Your Cart.”
“Getting shopping patterns back to normal will reduce stress on the distribution system and can go a long way toward creating some normalcy in our grocery stores,” Fong said.
San Mateo County supervisor gives tentative thumbs-up
Before the California Grocers Association launched its campaign to curb overbuying — what some call “hoarding” — San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa was prepared to take a more drastic step: Introduce legislation to make grocery stores limit the amount of items people can buy.
He said he was concerned that overbuying at the grocery store “jeopardizes the health and safety of our most vulnerable residents,” suggesting that items may be in short supply for the elderly, a group which the Centers for Disease Control has identified as being at higher risk of developing severe cases of the novel coronavirus.
Canepa said he would “propose legislation to mandate purchase limits to no more than four items” during the current coronavirus shelter-in-place order.
But as Canepa was on the cusp of bringing that item up to the county Board of Supervisors, the recent actions of the California Grocers Association convinced him to hold off — at least for now.
His office had been in discussions with the grocers association for more than a week before the #Enough4All campaign was announced. Canepa told The Almanac that the grocers association persuaded him that it could solve the overbuying problem, but he made it clear that he's keeping the legislation in his back pocket.
“We’re going to give them two months. I want to see what they will be able to accomplish,” he said. “I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they can fix this. However, if they don't, then we'll regulate the hell out of them.”
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.