Cancel OK

Are people avoiding produce? Hardly.

stockpiled bananas
Yes, this is the state of my banana stockpile as of this morning. I see banana bread in my future.

Who are all of these people avoiding fresh produce because of coronavirus?

A blog post published by Purdue University made the rounds in the fresh produce trade media, assuring consumers there’s no reason to avoid fresh produce during the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak.

I saw a lot of people talking about it, and about the appearance that people weren’t buying fresh produce during their panic-buying over the weekend.

Y’all. Have you been to the store lately?

People are buying EVERYTHING, fresh produce included.

Maybe they’re not stockpiling spinach, but plenty of fresh produce is making it to people’s baskets.

Did you try to buy bananas over the weekend? If you could find them, they were green and unripe. Who bought all the ripe bananas, and why?! That’s…bananas.

Actually, I’ll tell you who stocked up on bananas. My husband Brian. He panic-bought four hands of them and now they’re speckled and brown and we don’t have the room in our freezer for this nonsense.

I’m wondering if some of this chatter came from the belly of the beast. And yes, I’m talking about myself, and my colleagues in THE MEDIA.

This article, “Wary of coronavirus, U.S. shoppers skip the fresh produce aisle,” published March 9 got a lot of traction. I questioned it because it didn’t match the sales figures suppliers shared with me. At the time – before the major panic started – fresh produce was up double digits, from what I was hearing.

As of early last week, people were still lining their larders with toilet paper, bottled water, rice, and beans, but that buying completely changed over the weekend.

I’m watching stores get wiped completely out and doing their best to stock back up the next day by reducing hours and hiring overnight stocking help. The H-E-B and Randalls in my neighborhood are good examples. After seeing photos of empty shelves one day, I’m getting sent photos of full and fresh displays from the next. It takes time to catch up, and we will catch up. The food is there.

You can’t just throw this curveball and expect immediate home runs from the supply chain. Joe Watson, 35-year retail veteran and vice president of member services for the Produce Marketing Association, shared some great insight into the “magic” of grocery, and an estimate of 5-7 days for it to catch up.

I think now is the time, as so many Americans are spending more time at home, to reinforce that fresh fruits and vegetables are your first line of defense, a great immunity booster.

Fresh produce is safe to eat, and there are no changes in the way you wash it, by the way.

And let’s face it, most of us stuck at home don’t have a whole lot to do OTHER than prepare meals.

Get creative. Cook more. Try more recipes that maybe you haven’t had time to do. I know I have a whole lot more time in the evenings now with all of us quarantined and my social life effectively canceled.

What better time is there to get in the kitchen, especially with your kids?

Save your rice and beans for later. Get cooking with more fresh produce.







Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.