• Tom Ford, Editor

Hoarding Isn't Necessary and Puts Others at Risk in Numerous Ways. Stop it!

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding yesterday urged Pennsylvanians to return to their normal shopping habits to allow the supply chain to recover and allow enough essentials for all.

Over-purchasing impacts the food system, particularly the charitable food system that's currently working overtime to meet increased demands as thousands of Pennsylvanians are finding themselves out of work as a result of necessary COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Panic buying has emptied store shelves in Mount Pocono, and in many places around the country. Psychologists say there are various explanations for panic buying. Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at the University of the Arts London, says part of the explanation is what he calls “retail therapy” -- where purchasing helps calm the stress of a crisis. “It’s about ‘taking back control’ in a world where you feel out of control,” he told CNBC earlier this month. “More generally, panic buying can be understood as playing to our three fundamental psychology needs.”

He named those needs as (i) a need to feel in control, (ii) the affirmation we feel as part of a group -- in this case, people over buying necessities, which Marsden called “we shopping”, and (iii) competence, which Mardsen says happens when panic buyers feel like “smart shoppers” when they make their purchases.

Other psychologists talk about "fear contagion" -- the reaction you see when one animal is spooked and the rest of the herd react as one. The majority of the herd don't know why they are running, but feel the need to do it because the rest of the group is doing it. When shoppers see reports of runs on store supplies, the panic is contagious, causing others to follow suit.

But, empty shelves notwithstanding, there is plenty of food in the United States.

The latest United States Department of Agriculture monthly food supply data shows food stocks are solid, and in many cases at record highs. The food industry has gone out of its way to calm fears about the food supply.

“This is a demand issue, not a supply issue,”

Heather Garlich, vice president of media and public relations at FMI, the food industry association formerly known as the Food Marketing Institute, told ABC News. “The supply chain isn’t broken. The warehouses are pushing out as much inventory as possible in a 24-hour period.”

Garlich also noted that she hasn't "witnessed any reports of transmission as a result of being in a grocery store -- in the U.S. or abroad -- or else public health officials would have pointed that out." On the home goods front -- the iconic panic purchase is toilet paper and there's no reasons to worry about a shortage of that. Georgia-Pacific, the maker of Angel Soft and Quilted Northern, said those products are manufactured in North America, "primarily in the United States". "Inventory levels across our system remain healthy and we are working hard to maximize the number of deliveries we can load and ship out of our facilities – you can just load and unload so fast," a statement on the company's website said.

"Last week our mills and regional distribution centers

managed to ship out ~120% of normal capacity."

Consumer demand has caused “a significant increase in orders,” Fernando Gonzalez, president of Georgia-Pacific’s consumer business, explained by email. “These increases have been as high as two times our normal demand.” But, the company also sells to resorts and hotels, where the demand has substantially decreased. Georgia-Pacific said it is working through its existing excess inventory and increasing production at its existing facilities in order to meet consumer demand. Other paper product makers are also keeping up with the sudden surge of demand, according to the American Forest & Paper Association. "Rest assured, tissue products continue to be produced and shipped – just as they are 52 weeks each year," Heidi Brock, the industry group's president and CEO said in a statement earlier this week. Hoarding and panic buying also puts others at greater risk. With more people in the stores, grocery workers, retail workers and shoppers at a much higher risk for infection. Shopping when it isn't necessary puts the shopper at greater risk of getting sick or infecting others, including the elderly and store personnel, which have no choice but to be there.

Locally there are many reports of mothers unable to find diapers or infant formula due to hoarding. Many people cannot afford to spend extra money hoarding supplies. Hoarders take vital supplies away from lower income community members, including the elderly, single parents, and the under-employed, who need to feed and care for their families. Hoarding hurts the most vulnerable in our community.

It is unnecessary, selfish, and puts everyone at greater risk.

Stop it! Don't follow the herd. Please.

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