March 20, 2020
The New Not-so-Normal
Since the beginning, our objective has been to tell the story of food production through the most influential voices in the business. From farm fields to consumer plates, we’ve diligently tracked and categorized everything important in food, beverage and agriculture to provide a well-rounded perspective on our industry.
Part of our process involves a careful daily scan of the news. This gives us an up-to-the-minute snapshot that provides a clearer picture of what’s happening and who’s driving the conversations.
This week, the coronavirus dominated every facet of the news, including food production. Below is a core sample of influential voices from important segments of the industry and how they’re articulating thoughts on this unprecedented pandemic.
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The Intel Distillery Team
- Nation’s Restaurant News compiled an up-to-date list of restrictions on bars and restaurants.
- Amid fallout from criticism for being a costly drain on restaurant business, delivery service Grubhub announced the company “is temporarily suspending collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from impacted independent restaurants nationwide.”
- Danny Meyer, owner of Union Square Hospitality Group, shared a video message to staff on Twitter after restaurant closings caused the group to lay off 2,000 employees — nearly 80% of its staff.
- Writer Derek Thompson explored the hard-hit restaurant business in The Atlantic: “Already operating at paper-thin margins, restaurants face the loss of their entire dine-in business, but they will still have to make rent.”
- Retail distributor UNFI CEO Steve Spinner commented in a release, ” We firmly believe that increased levels of public-private collaboration can further enhance UNFI’s around-the-clock efforts to meet our customers’ current and future needs.”
- Food retailers strained to keep up with high demand and challenging conditions. Whole Foods and Amazon invoked temporary wage increases (Supermarket News), national chains such as Dollar General offered early morning hours exclusively for elderly shoppers (USA Today), and Costco (and others) suffered from workforces compromised by the coronavirus (Buzzfeed).
- On its health blog, Harvard promoted healthy diets along with its coronavirus guidance.
- Purdue University Dean of Agricultural Economics Jayson Lusk opined on stockpiling, shortages and how a looming recession might impact food markets.
- Cornell University’s agricultural workforce development program warned: “Your farm workforce is not immune to coronavirus, please begin taking steps to protect yourself and your employees.”
- Tyson Foods shifted some of its foodservice production of chicken, beef and pork to retail, reaffirming its role in meeting the current demand for meat.
- Leaders from Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Cargill, Diageo and Danone updated ABC News on the state of their operations.
- The Wall Street Journal‘s Annie Gasparro and Micah Maidenberg quoted General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening: “Before, [demand] was mainly just soup and flour … I think we’ve all been surprised at the virus impact over the past week.” Looks like cereal may make a comeback after all.
- In Civil Eats, Robert Egger, founder of antihunger non-profit D.C. Social Kitchen, suggested ways readers could fight hunger in their own communities.
- The World Health Organization dispelled some myths about virus prevention. For example: “There is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people.”
- No Kid Hungry published a guide to help educators and administrators organize food-program operations that “meet the needs of students while minimizing community spread of the coronavirus.”
- World Food Program USA examined how the disease affects global food supplies.
- The USDA ensured “the safety and timely delivery of the U.S. food supply while protecting the health of USDA employees.”
- FDA published a thorough Q&A about COVID-19 and food safety.
- On March 18, FDA announced it had “temporarily postponed routine domestic facility inspections,” instead focusing efforts on “natural disasters, outbreaks and other public health emergencies involving FDA-regulated products.”
- In light of the CDC’s March 15 guidance of restricting gatherings of 50 or more, the Consumer Brands Association sent a letter to local and federal government officials pleading that food manufacturers be exempt from gathering and curfew bans.
- The National Restaurant Association provided business planning tools to restaurant owners that outlined ways to “minimize loss of revenue during times of social distancing.”
- FMI CEO Leslie Sarasin, confirmed grocery stores have “a viable supply chain that can provide safe, affordable food and consumer products for our customers during this time.”
- In an effort to maintain the labor pool during planting and harvest seasons, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall urged the administration to “find a safe and practical way to admit farm laborers as emergency workers for visas, while still protecting the public health.”
Acts of kindness and humanity earn our appreciation in trying times.
On a Bike and a Prayer
The New York Times profiled Transfernation, a nonprofit that, with the help of 10 cargo cyclists, picks up uneaten food from corporate cafeterias and restaurants around Manhattan to donate to soup kitchens. CEO Hannah Dehradunwala said the goal is “to make food donation as easy as calling an Uber.”
Disney Does Good
Since Walt Disney World Resorts announced it would close all theme parks through March 20, the company pledged all of its excess food inventory to a local food bank as a part of the ongoing Disney Harvest program. “In the last year alone, these donations provided one million meals to people in need.”
Relief for Restaurants
Eater published an ongoing list of relief funds for bars, restaurants and service workers. The resource shines light on all the ways people can come together to support the restaurant industry as businesses nationwide have been forced to shutter.
BK Loves the Kids
Bloomberg reported that during a phone call between restaurant industry leaders and President Trump to address the effect of the coronavirus on the food system, Restaurant Brands International CEO José Cil promised, “Burger King’s U.S. restaurants will soon begin offering two free kids meals per adult meal.”
José Andrés, celebrity chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, announced on Twitter that he would close all of his D.C. restaurants and convert some into community kitchens “to offer to-go lunches for those who need a meal.”
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