toilet paper

Shoppers Have Flooded Food Stores, But Are They Buying the Right Things?

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker asked shoppers not to horde food, saying there is no food shortage in the state

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Grocery stores across the region are jampacked as families stock up on supplies in case they’re stuck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak.

People tell us, at first, they thought the photos posted online of empty shelves were ridiculous – but now they admit that’s exactly why they’re here.

“I think other people’s reactions are affecting others around them, so it is causing a chain reaction,” said Manchester, New Hampshire, resident Michele Jones.

Market Basket posted on social media to confirm that they remain open with regular hours after messages appeared online saying such stores had closed.

"We thought it was important to get the message out there and set the record straight that Market Basket stores are open for business, we don't plan on closing any location," the company's Supervisor of Operations Joe Schmidt said.

The supermarkets are working hard to continue to restock shelves and keep delivery schedules on-time, Schmidt added.

In a press conference Saturday morning, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker said there is no shortage of food in the state, as stores continue to fill emptying shelves. He also called on shoppers to practice moderation as they stock up.

“Filling your basement with two years of canned soup means your neighbor will go without," Baker said.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced that Massachusetts has set up a coronavirus response command center. Acknowledging the empty shelves seen around the commonwealth's grocery stores, he told people there is no need to hoard food.

If you haven’t yet been to your local grocery store, Sue Waisman and her friend Darlene Tremblay are warning you to have patience.

“It is very busy, there’s no carts,” Waisman said.

Tremblay said she had never seen anything like the crowds at her Market Basket Friday afternoon.

“It’s crazy, just crazy,” she said.

With coronavirus prompting fears of extended home quarantines, people are packing supermarkets, buying out products like toilet paper. 

At stores across the region, checkout lines are wrapped around the store. You’ll find empty shelves from the bread aisles, to the refrigerators, and yes, even the toilet paper section.

“Yeah there’s no toilet paper,” Jones said laughing.

When we asked her significant other, Jacob Wurster, why people are stockpiling toilet paper, he responded, “I couldn’t tell you why toilet paper would be the thing.”

Chris Hickey is the Emergency Services Officer in Manchester and is equally as dumbfounded by the toilet paper craze.

“The whole toilet paper thing, yeah, I got nothing, I really don’t know,” Hickey said.

He says some things make sense to stockpile if you’re worried about a widespread shutdown.

“Canned goods, bagged goods, boxed goods, and things that could be put in the freezer,” Hickey added.

He also says if you’re concerned about being quarantined because you’re sick, forget the toilet paper and get some cold and flu medicine.

Other shoppers are turning online as an alternative. Stop & Shop saw a 33 percent increase in online orders via their Peapod service compared to last year.

Peapod and Instacart grocery delivery services have also added unattended delivery options. This means that drivers will leave packages outside and allow buyers to avoid further social contact.

Hickey says right now, there’s no reason to panic, but he understands the anxiety.

“If you feel the need to stock up, stock up,” Hickey said. “We’re not going to tell you no, because it is whatever is going to put your mind at ease.”

So, maybe the frenzy at local food stores is less about the products and more about peace of mind.

“I will feel a lot better, a lot safer,” Wurster said as he loaded his groceries into his SUV.

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