Social distancing impact all parts of the food supply chain

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Even though more new COVID-19 cases and deaths are being reported, the City of Philadelphia says it is seeing a downward trend.

Much of the success can be attributed to people staying at home. Though that's good when it comes to flattening the curve, it's hurting the restaurant industry and forcing them to change their business models.

The whole supply chain for food is in disarray, forcing farmers, franchises and restaurants to adapt.

Sean Kennedy of the National Restaurant Association says COVID-19 has been a tidal wave for the restaurant industry.

"Three percent of restaurants have advised us that they are just shutting down altogether, giving keys back to the bank. Another 11 percent are considering that in the next two weeks," Kennedy said.

Some national chains like Panera Bread and Subway are adapting, coupling pickup and delivered meals with groceries, selling excess produce, milk and eggs to customers.

"We are seeing a lot of supply issues in grocery stores, some customers just don't feel comfortable walking through it," Kennedy said.

The ripple effect is being felt by farmers like Paul Allen. His contracts are primarily with restaurants and he's hurting.

"So far we've probably destroyed, I want to say four million pounds of green beans, five million pounds of cabbage," Allen said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture says businesses are radically having to change their business models.

That said, the state's farmers are in much better shape than California, Texas, and Florida, where Allen grows.

"In Pennsylvania, a lot of our produce farmers are in better shape because they produce less for the institutional markets, so less for food service," said Shannon Powers with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

While you might wonder why the food isn't just donated, Allen said food banks are only equipped to accept a limited supply.

"They can't absorb it all, I would say probably five to 10 percent can be handled by a food bank," Allen said.

Kennedy and his members are waiting and watching, with each day another blow to the industry.

"Probably the scariest part about this, is you don't know when it's going to end," Kennedy said.
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