Giving away food is just one example of how people around the world are adjusting to the strain the coronavirus pandemic has put on supply chains, as restaurants, schools and hotels close. With unemployment soaring, demand from food banks is rising fast at the same time farmers have fewer outlets to sell their crops.
In Washington, the No. 2 U.S. potato growing state after Idaho, a billion pounds of russet potatoes, normally processed into french fries and hash browns, are sitting in warehouses that would typically be emptying ahead of the July harvest, the Washington State Potato Commision said.
Instead, the organization is handing out the surplus for free in brown sacks, 100,000 pounds at a time.
Potato producers in Europe have also faced enormous surpluses. Belgian citizens are being urged to eat more potatoes as the country faces a massive oversupply as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Because the pandemic shut down restaurants, there's a surplus of 750,000 tons of potatoes. Instead of eating fries once a week, the association of potato producers is asking Belgians to double that.
Romain Cools, a top official representing the country's potato industry group Belgapom, told CNBC, "To be very honest, the effect on potato consumption will probably last for months, and we can only try to find solutions where the solutions are — for us in Belgium, that could be pushing home consumption.” He added. “We’ve also asked farmers not to plant that many potatoes for the next season because we believe this season will take some extra months away from next year by postponing processing.”