As COVID-19 uncertainty grips the nation, Americans are increasingly rushing to ensure that their food resources are adequate. Three homophones come to mind when contemplating what’s playing out in front of us from coast to coast.
This is NOT a political commentary. Quite the contrary. Instead, it’s an observation, one being fed by continuously unfolding events and people’s instinctive reaction to same, a lot of which is shared virally through one platform or another, not to mention anecdotally in our own communities.
Horde: noun, horde; plural noun: hordes; a large group of people
None of us know what course COVID-19 will ultimately take and whether its trajectory will exceed or fall short of projections. It’s exactly that ever-evolving mystery that has sent hordes of us into grocery and big box stores in search of staples.
While the spotlight has been focused on the national run on hand sanitizer and toilet paper, stories about limited food supplies on the shelves have ramped up in recent days as well. Hordes of shoppers have swept through retailers, some waiting in very lengthy lines, in an attempt to stock refrigerators, freezers, and pantries.
As these same retailers modify their operating hours and make public pronouncements about replenishing supplies, hope remains that a sense of emotional security returns along with stocked shelves.
Hoard: noun: hoard; plural noun: hoards; a stock or store of money or valued objects, typically one that is secret or carefully guarded
Though it would appear as though horde and hoard have a great deal of overlap in the case of COVID-19’s psychological effect on consumers, the latter implies and even suggests different motivations.
When hordes of us rush to our neighborhood store hoping to keep our families fed, a very small minority publicly do so hoping to hoard food items with an eye toward profiting from their efforts. Such tactics are not left to our collective imaginations, as many of these same hoarders proudly publicize the fruits of their labor on social media.
Whored: verb: past tense; debase oneself by doing something for unworthy motives, typically to make money
Helping us illustrate these observations, one person, in particular, made news in recent days when they literally brought the definition of whored to life, accumulating so many products that are in high demand and then exorbitantly pricing them that companies like Amazon and eBay refused to allow the inventory to be sold on their sites.
Concurrent to retailers tweaking their business model so they can best serve the public, the restaurant industry is also enacting changes that will enable them to continue to feed customers while doing so within safe, healthy parameters.
With the aforementioned businesses’ avowed commitment to keeping everyone fed as their foundation, we can’t overlook the fact that their ability to execute is only sustainable because of the amazing professionals who are in the trenches. From stockers to checkout staff to drive-thru window employees to food delivery drivers, this crisis-mandated supply chain doesn’t even get off the ground without these unsung heroes.
Circling back to the same word soup upon which this piece was based, we can’t make these observations without thinking about grocery and big box stores’ and restaurants’ hoped-for ability to meet demands.
In most walks of life, the best types of ability are availability, reliability, and dependability, all of which have become the stated core fundamentals around which the food industry has pledged to build in the days and weeks to come. The resulting best-case scenario would be these three words negating the three discussed earlier.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.