As pandemic rages, demand for groceries remains high but jobs remain unfilled

Posted at 12:20 PM, Dec 07, 2020

Feeding the country during a pandemic is no short order. In fact, it's an incredibly tall one stacked 60 feet high inside grocery warehouses across the country.

Mike Violette is the CEO at Associated Grocers of New England. We first met Mike back in March, when Americans were buying food in record numbers. Workers in this warehouse could barely keep up with demand. Shelves sat as empty as suppliers couldn't keep up with the demand for everything from paper towels to flour.

"What we saw last March, you won’t see that again. Paper manufacturers have changed their lines, what they’re producing, and how they’re producing," Violette explained.

Demand for groceries across the country is still up 20 percent over this time last year. While suppliers have kept up with demand, there are random shortages for things like glass mason jars.

"People are cooking, people are eating at home and they’re cooking. A lot of people learned to cook from last March forward, and they’re doing more of it," Violette added.

This time around, Violette and other grocers are urging Americans to avoid panic buying as some states reimpose COVID-19 restrictions.

"There’s no need to stock up. There’ll be plenty of product; the food supply is strong and by people stocking up, it makes it harder for people to get products and people have to make more frequent stops to go to the store,” Violette said.

There’s something else this grocery distributor has realized in recent months: even with near-record numbers of Americans unemployed, they’re having trouble filling jobs.

Warehouses and factories across the country have noticed similar trends. Part of the reason is that workers are concerned about catching COVID-19 and not filling open positions. This is also not the kind of job that can be done from home.

"I think a lot of it is the type of work that it is. It involves heavy lifting, so it can be hard work," Violette said.

But all that aside, these men and women will keep working to keep grocery store shelves stocked to keep America fed during the pandemic.