COVID-19 has changed the food industry

Laren Reesman, Staff writer


“How many celery stalks can I take?”

This is the question I asked myself as I entered the Grotto to start the fall 2020 semester. Unfortunately, pandemic food means pre-portioned food, and often those portions lack substance.

Throughout the pandemic, I saw food services decrease product while increasing prices.

Businesses—especially restaurants—everywhere had to offer less and charge more as they struggled to stay afloat.

My local coffee shop suddenly cost $5.25 for a mocha rather than $4.95; a local pizza shop made toppings $2 per extra instead of $1.

Costs associated with rent and maintaining a sanitized facility while dealing with cuts to revenue became too much for many establishments over the summer.

They did not get enough business to afford a physical location, and federal aid packages barely saved them.

Mercyhurst appears to have felt this harsh reality as well.

The convenience store in Ryan upped prices on many products, and the university ended Bonus Bucks with the Unlimited food plan.

Fast food and delivery trended upward. People were so bored at home they began to envision their lunch menu before breakfast.

The danger is what those meals comprised of—usually fast food drive-thru or delivery.

These meals contain almost no nutritional or substantive calories. Unhealthy diet and lifestyle are two reasons why America suffered far more COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other nation.

America has a huge population of diabetic and obese individuals with underlying health problems, and the root of the issue is our food.

The pandemic proved without a doubt how horrible the American diet is, and fast food profited enormously while gyms, workout studios and pools were forced to close.

This was a recipe for catastrophe. Poor areas may be the worst affected. Most public schools handed students food cards to spend at local grocery and convenience stores.

While candy, chips and pop are included on the card, precooked meals like rotisserie chickens are not.

We wonder why people continue to get sick in America when much of Europe’s curve flattened quickly.

How much food waste did we generate during this pandemic? A new world of disposable dishes, utensils, cleaning and medical supplies became normal. Some places use recyclable or biodegradable products, but many more cut corners financially just to dissuade sanitary concerns and save face.

Not to mention, we generated tons of surplus crops because buyers could not afford them.

Consumption of grocery store items decreased drastically, especially during the lockdown.

Farmers were forced to throw much of their crop away. Food is a privilege we take for granted, and we wasted an obscene amount this summer.

Every shift I worked at the grocery store had an overwhelming amount of shrink (out-of-date food) that was ultimately thrown away while unemployed Americans stood in food assistance lines across the country.

COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the food industry, specifically local dine-in restaurants. Availability was on downturn except for fast food delivery.

When restaurants finally reopened, they did so with limited capacity and limited menus.

It seems like nothing will change in the near future, but at least restaurants have the go-ahead to resume operations.