Chinatown Asks, Where’s the Beef? [OP-ED]
In scenes reminiscent of life in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, where long lines were the norm for basic necessities and food, the past couple weeks of coronavirus quarantine have shown a crack here at home. Despite federal and state leaders’ calls to remain calm and reassurances that there are bountiful supplies of meat, vegetables and hygiene products, the reality in our neighborhood shops reflect otherwise.
Chinatown grocers had not seen the crowds or hoarding reported in Chinese media of Brooklyn supermarkets and Costco buying frenzies. In fact, up until last week, our local shops remained well stocked. Now, though, meat and vegetable aisles are sparse, and the past several days brought long lines of elderly waiting to enter stores that enforce a social distancing policy of limiting the number of customers.
Area supermarkets have worked tirelessly to restock shelves but supply is sporadic and limited. There is likely a shortage of workers at wholesalers and drivers to deliver goods to our markets.
While food supplies are plentiful the processing and delivery chain has shown vulnerability resulting in skyrocketing prices at the retail and wholesale levels. Many farms depend on migrant workers who are now afraid to work because of COVID-19, crops on New jersey farms remain unharvested and plowed over for the next planting while the few farms that remain functional can not meet the demand. No surprise that basics we took for granted, such as eggs, tripled in price at the wholesale level. Blame the lack of truck drivers bringing them into the city.
As this crisis drags on, the problem can only worsen without government stepping in.