Two Kids Cooking - ©

COVID-19: Restaurants Dark, Home Cooking Soars

There’s one bright side to the COVID-19 crisis: While restaurants have closed and many will not survive to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic passes, home cooking has entered a renaissance of sorts which I hope will continue after the virus subsides…

The Joy of Cooking - © tasteofhomecooking.blogspot.comWe hope all young folks are experiencing the Joy of Cooking
to the extent this young lady apparently is.

Millions of us, hunkering down at home with little to occupy ourselves during the COVID-19 crisis, have turned to home cooking for something fulfilling to do that can involve the whole family, and as a means of limiting our exposure to the outside world. Fortunately, grocery shopping has become one of the least dangerous errands you can run, thanks to protocols the supermarkets have put in place, from sanitizing cart handles when you come in to sanitizing credit card payment terminals as you leave.

I’m delighted to see whole generations of younger folks becoming familiar with the joys and benefits of home cooking. They may just be finding that they enjoy it, and I hope they continue to do so after the pandemic’s social distancing and stay home orders are lifted.

Just one problem

Grocers report that demand for their wares has skyrocketed 500 percent in the past month as more folks have turned from routine, frequent patronage of restaurants to cooking at home.

A report from Food and Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) released last Thursday says 80 percent of Canadian food manufacturers have stepped up production to try to meet increased demand.

Some makers of basic food items have reduced the variety of foods they are making to keep up with demand for the most popular items. Ital Pasta, for example, has cut its usual line from some 60 types of Pasta to about half a dozen, such as Spaghetti, Penne and Lasagna.

Well, maybe one other problem, too…

Some shuttered restaurants have turned to take-out- and delivery-only regimes in their attempts to keep their heads above water and retain staff. Others have become grocery stores of their own in an attempt to sell off unused food rather than see it go to waste. And the revenue stream that produces may be critical to their survival. Some Subway stores, for example, are selling produce ‘as is’ to customers.

One resto chain with outlets in Canada and the U.S., Earls, actually launched Earls Grocery earlier this month, selling themed food packages which you order online and are delivered to your door; including a produce package, a pantry pack or a protein pack.

“You’ve got too much product, and so you need to find a market for that,” Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie UniversityPprofessor who specializes in food distribution and policy, told “These products are perishable, so time is of [the] essence.”

Why so much food? Many restaurants, especially Fast Food chains, have long-term standing orders for food products to ensure that they don’t run out. All restos have relatively limited storage space, so they rely on just-in-time delivery to maintain volume service.

Cases in point: Dairy and Potatoes

Single crop economies such as the PEI Potato industry are suffering greatly because the restaurant industry is not buying. Some three-quarters of the Canadian Potato crop is contracted to restaurants and farmers are bracing for a devastating loss, and a mammoth waste of food.

The Dairy industry has a similar but more pressing problem, literally. According to an emergency statement from the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC), cows produce a certain amount of Milk every day and you can’t just tell them not to. If they aren’t milked, their udders will become painfully bloated. In  the extreme, the situation can be deadly. Rather than dump their excess milk, dairy farmers who usually sell their produce to restaurants have filed for the crop disaster insurance and taken a philanthropic stance.

“The last thing anyone wants to see is milk being discarded, least of all farmers and their partners in the value chain. Every day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, farmers and processors are dedicated to supplying the market with the milk that is needed to feed Canadians,” the DFC statement said.

More than 2.5 million litres of Canadian Milk has been donated to food banks over the past week.

My take

We on the receiving end of the food chain seldom consider the issues facing those on the producing end. Now is a perfect time to reflect on the hardships they face as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. And if oversupply of some foods and food products is forcing prices down at the supermarket, it’s a great time to stock up!

~ Maggie J.