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Featured Article

Reinventing our Food Culture

What does our food supply chain look like in a pandemic?

"Our Quality Assurance team ensures ongoing high standards by continually monitoring compliance with quality and safety guidelines."

"It might have taken a crisis like Covid-19 to bring to light who these ‘essential workers’ really were, those who worked third shifts, quietly stocking shelves for eager patrons, or those driving across great stretches of highways and braved unknown risks to provide a sense of normalcy in times when nothing seemed normal."

So what does life look like in an ongoing pandemic? For most citizens, 2020 has been a slideshow of alarming events; starting with health and food safety, scarcity of sanitizing and paper products, facemasks and shuttered businesses, of ominous news reports, tentative school reopenings, and ultimately, a shift in our thinking about what this ‘new normal’ might look like.

Part of this journey into rather unknown territory is trying to still retain some of the familiar creature comforts that we once took for granted, and then hemming them into this unfamiliar tableau. And let’s be honest, Americans are a proud nation of very social creatures. We love gatherings; music, sports, religious services, and family events, but there is a pastime that surpasses even gatherings; food. 

According to a 2019 survey of 1, 000 Americans, 56 percent reported dining out two to three times a week. And abiding by the tights restrictions of practicing social distancing, this rather culturally-accepted habit of dining out has been drastically reimagined as to what it looks like to dine in America. But what does our food supply look like in a pandemic? 

For most of us living in 2020, we have never known the sacrifice of true privation on a national level. Perhaps, we’ve heard the recollections of older relatives who survived the Great Depression and the tales of making many meals out of one. But living in the world of instant gratification, we have taken for granted the availability of food or supplies. 

Fortunately, Sysco Idaho (part of the larger Sysco Corporation) has been very busy behind the scenes, doing its part in remaining a stronghold in the food chain, keeping up with the demand of supplying packaged and fresh produce for local Treasure Valley residents. Especially providing for the hard-hit local small and chain businesses. Though the supply chain remains as strong as ever, the bricks and mortar version of our fine eateries might be incarnating into new forms. According to Sysco Idaho, there has been a desire to reinvent what restaurants can offer right now. Some restaurants supplemented their items, stocking bulk paper, and fresh food options, to became overnight grocery stores for patrons who felt uncertain about shopping in larger supermarkets. Many also began offering take-out and delivery options where they had never been a need previously. And for those who still desire the convenience of home cooked meals but lacking time and energy for prep? Meal kits that feed the whole family.

In addition to supplying local businesses and restaurateurs the essentials in fresh food and produce, Sysco has made this transition easier with different take out packaging options as well as simplifying menus that are better suited for meals on the go.

Still worried about food safety, ordering take out or dining in? Consider the following. 

Shannon Mutschler, Senior Director, External Communications for Sysco, Inc. shared with me how food and supplies have remained readily available for the Treasure Valley.

“Sysco’s QA [Quality Assurance] team includes, approximately, 200 full-time corporate associates and more than 50 contracted inspectors. This team is dedicated to one mission: delivering Sysco Brand products that meet the most exacting safety, reliability, and quality standards, as well as working with our suppliers to ensure the same standards are being upheld on non-Sysco branded products.” 

It might have taken a crisis like Covid-19 to really bring to light who these ‘essential workers’ really were, those who worked third shifts, quietly stocking shelves for eager patrons, or those driving across great stretches of highways and braved unknown risks to provide a sense of normalcy in times when nothing seemed normal. 

Says Mutschler, “Sysco pivoted its business quickly to help retail grocers in a number of ways, including providing labor to work in retailer warehouses and products to help meet the massive shift in demand.  Sysco also stepped up to help the communities where we live and work by helping to alleviate a significant increase in food insecurity.  We donated 30 million meals globally and loaned refrigerated trailers to help some foodbanks with storage for the increase in food inventory.  We even donated produce to the Boise Zoo to feed the animals!”

Even in our bleakest moments, we can take faith that not only will we not suffer from lack, but we can make a conscious effort to support our local businesses and restaurateurs. Every time we swipe our credit cards for food purchases or supplies, it might not be a bad reminder to think of the ones who made these products and supplies readily available. Those whom we might never meet, but were instrumental in every effort to make our family meals the comfort and sustenance we can safely enjoy. 

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  • Across Idaho, the amount of food distributed by The Idaho Foodbank has increased 30% during the pandemic