food store in NYC that is well stocked.

Worried About Global Food Shortages? Don’t Be Scared Be Prepared

If there’s one thing most people take for granted, it is food. U.S. supermarkets are always well-stocked. Fast-food joints and restaurants seem to be overflowing with anything customers might desire. So who cares about how all that food gets there or that we might someday experience global food shortages?

food store in NYC that is well stocked.

When pushed to think about it, I wager most of us assume there are massive warehouses somewhere, filled with enough food to feed the nation for some unknown period of time—with refills available as needed. It just makes sense!


The truth is, as a nation, we have little to no warehousing backup in the event of a supply shortage. The U.S. concentrated supermarket supply system uses a technology known as JIT (just-in-time), a method made possible by computers, algorithms, and Internet.

How JIT works

Instead of every supermarket needing a warehouse to store large quantities of food to be sold locally, computers keep track of inventory, placing relatively small orders daily.

This precludes the need for massive warehousing. Retailers know their orders will arrive “just in time” via a massive fleet of tractor/trailer trucks to keep the shelves filled and the customers happy. What food shortages?


Does it really matter?

Who cares about all of this talk of food shortage, really? And why should we, as consumers, even concern ourselves? The system seems to be working really well, so why the fuss?

Most people buy food for one week or less. Multiple trips to the market allow us to enjoy fresh food without the hassles of having to manage food reserves. The integrity of the food supply system never crosses our minds.

Inventory turnover

Not long ago, I had a conversation with an executive of Costco. I asked him how long a Costco warehouse club’s inventory of food would last if suddenly there were no more shipments of food. He hypothesized that the shelves would be empty within three to five days. My local supermarket manager confirmed with a similar “less than a week” response to my query about food shortages.

Imagine this

Now, imagine that something happens to make the typical American want a food reserve. This could happen if current inflation were to turn into hyperinflation. As people see food prices escalating beyond reach, they would rush to buy and hoard reserve food while it is still within their price range.

Consumer demand

The demand for food would quintuple or more within a short time as shoppers empty shelves in the market, further stimulating panic buying, just as in a hurricane or blizzard.

How to build food reserve

The best thing we can do to protect ourselves and our families is to prepare. The more food you have in storage, the less dependent you are on a system that some theorize has only a 3-day supply in its distribution chain. I tell you this not to cause you to panic but to move you toward action.

Start small

Buy a few more of the items on your regular shopping trip. If you typically pick up four cans of green beans, get six. Instead of one bottle of honey, get two. But if it’s on sale, get four.

Reserve what you enjoy

For a normal short- to mid-term storage inventory, you should stock up on the foods you are used to eating and enjoying. If your family loathes say red beans, but loves good albacore, forget that 25-lb. bag of dry kidney beans even though it seems like a good idea. Instead, invest in canned solid white albacore, as an example.

Empowered, satisfied

Taking control of your family’s food resources is empowering and satisfying. The more you grow your food supply, the less dependence you’ll feel on others. The more non-perishable food you have in reserve, the better you will sleep at night.

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3 replies
  1. Annie says:

    I do most of my shopping at a supermarket that is a bit upscale their stores are always stocked or I should say were…now there are big gaps and some items are only 2 or 3 deep.
    We are a nation of can-do and make-do people. We will make things work.

    Thank you Mary you are as always a light to lead the way.

  2. Linda Anderson says:

    We are very well prepared for food shortages but I’m wondering where people keep their supplies in a tornado situation! We have no basement and the storm shelter isn’t big enough for very many supplies. Do you bury them somehow?

  3. Robin says:

    Thank you for continuing to try to make people aware of the very real possibility of needing to have a stockpile of food and water! I figure that if I don’t need it soon, I’ll start using it–out of my own personal store! (And then replace it, of course!)


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