While COVID-19 food shortages have yet to hit mainstream grocery and warehouse stores in a big way, suppliers specializing in long-term storage food (i.e. emergency food) have spent the past month struggling with a triple-digit spike in orders.
The panic buying seems to have started in late January as COVID-19 news spread from China around the world. My Patriot Supply (MPS), a preparedness outfitter out of Utah, posted a notice on January 30 2020 stating that it had put its teams on 16-hour days, increased customer service hours, and contacted suppliers to expedite shipping. On February 1 2020, MPS updated the page to explain that the company was seeing 10x the normal amount of demand and that orders would take an extra 3-5 days.
As of February 28, MPS is claiming a 100x increase in orders in a single week, with delays of eight weeks or more. My Patriot Supply isn’t just out of food, it’s even running out of seeds to grow the food.
Similar shortages can be found throughout the preparedness market. Oregon-based Mountain House, which sells its preserved food in major chains like Academy, Bass Pro Shops, REI, and Walmart, has had to temporarily stop taking orders. Things were so bad the week of February 27 that the company begged website visitors to not call them.
Valley Food Storage, based out of Akron, OH, is following MPS’s lead with a regularly updated status page. Even with increased efforts and even shipping partial orders, the company is still saying to expect delays of four to six weeks.
BePrepared.com is warning of a 4-8 week shipping and production delay in a banner at the top of its home page.
Salt Lake City-based Augason Farms, which sells its products in Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and other brick-and-mortar stores, has announced that it’s only producing its most popular products, and even then there are shipping delays of 1 to 2 months. Sorry, if you needed a four-gallon bucket of banana chips, you’re out of luck for a while.
Nashville, TN-based 4Patriots features a notice on its home page that survival food shipments are delayed by 21-28 days. And the Wise Company, again based out of Salt Lake City, has a wait time of four to five weeks on many of its products.
The Infowars Store, the retail wing of the Austin, TX Alex Jones media empire, reports a nearly identical demand curve to My Patriot Supply: 10x increase at the start of February, with a 100X spike in order volume in a single week around February 28, and a shipment delay of 8 weeks or more. However, a quick visit to Ready Hour, the food supplier for Infowars, shows no mention of order delays (however, a call to the company only led me to a voicemail prompt after several minutes on hold, so don’t get your hopes up). And despite being weeks out of stock, Alex Jones is still sending out emails urging recipients to “STOCK UP NOW.”
Stocking up for yourself
We advise having enough provisions to shelter in place for at least two weeks in our Wuhan coronavirus preparation guide. The good news if you weren’t able to get your hands on an emergency food kit in time is: you probably don’t need one. They’re designed to be stored for decades, and you’re not facing that long of a timeframe.
Your best bet is to take stock of what you eat on a regular basis that isn’t perishable and, if you can afford to do so, buy it in large quantities (check the guide above for ideas). That way, if you find yourself needing to shelter in place, you’re well-stocked with foods that you’re familiar with preparing and you know you and your family will eat. While those food kits can sit on a shelf for years, that doesn’t always translate to great flavor. Don’t forget the kids, either! We bought bulk boxes of macaroni and cheese and literally pounds of pancake mix, both inexpensive and kid friendly.
The upside to this approach is that if the effects of the coronavirus aren’t as bad as we fear, you won’t have boxes of emergency rations taking up space in a corner of your house. Instead, you just won’t have to shop for rice and beans for a while. And if you have more than you can use in a reasonable amount of time, you can buy sealable mylar liners that will fit in a five-gallon bucket for long-term storage.
But we urge you not to wait. Panic buying has already hit the mainstream, with warehouse stores seeing long lines and empty shelves this past weekend.
If you have a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club, you might want to take advantage of online ordering—shipping is free with a Costco membership or a Sam’s Plus membership. That way you don’t have to fight the crowds.
While you’re at it, don’t forget other essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, both of which are selling out across the country. Overpriced bottles of hand sanitizer are selling out on Amazon and eBay.
With COVID-19 now spreading throughout the United States and panic starting to set in among the public, there’s never been a better time to be prepared or a worse time to be unprepared.