Shopping Limits Suggested To Prevent Hoarding

Jennifer Hodges
March 18, 2020 - 2:22 pm

Empty store shelves have painted a picture of panic around the country, a result of people across the nation buying food and supples in a frenzy unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic

Stores across the Bay Area are emptied on a daily basis by shoppers, restocked by employees, then emptied again, which has created a problem for food banks and organizations that rely on hefty quantities of unsold groceries to feed seniors and the needy.

A Marin County organization that provides free food to seniors has been seeing dwindling supplies because of this.

Respecting Our Elders is a not-for-profit that delivers to hundreds of mostly homebound seniors 365 days of the year, but its executive director Ruth Schwartz told KCBS Radio that the three major food stores it relies on for donations — Trader Joes, Whole foods and Safeway — have been offering less due to coronavirus-fueled panic buying.

“There’s less food being given to us because the stores only give us what they donate,” Schwartz said. “It’s not like they have food set aside for us.”


Most items donated to Respecting Our Elders are stale bread, salads, produce that is too ripe to sell and other perishable items.

"We’re seeing a lower volume in general, and sometimes hardly anything,” Schwartz said.

Organizations including The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, which serves families and individuals, are experiencing a drop in donated supples too. 

Lawmakers are stepping in an attempt to remedy the hunger and keep hope alive for those in need.

San Mateo County supervisor David Canepa told KCBS Radio that the bind is having an effect on people’s psyche.

“The stores are trying to manage it by themselves, but they cannot do it, and so we need uniform legislation,” Canepa said.

The legislation would limit the number of items a shopper can throw in the cart.

“I hate to legislate this,” Canepa explained. “But what we’re seeing is people taking numerous items, people leaving stores unfilled.”

Safeway and the City of San Jose have announced similar measures on Wednesday.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said that while they think the tidal wave of shoppers has diminished, but he still would like to get the message out.

“We got this,” Liccardo said. “Safeway and all of the food providers and retail providers in our community will continue to ensure we have ample supply for our entire community.”

Liccardo added that he is requesting shoppers to adhere to their limits to be able to get product stocked much quicker to be available for more people.

Brad Street, the Northern California Division President of Safeway, said they will enforce buying limits, and as of Thursday, will reserve special shopping hours for seniors and those-in-need in the the morning.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, those shoppers will have special access to the stores from their opening at 6 or 7 a.m. until 9 a.m.