Fighting Food Shortages During COVID-19

As nationwide headlines warn that COVID-19 is closing meat processing plants, one of St. Joseph’s largest employers is working hard to stay open.

The coronavirus has reduced meat production by as much as 25 percent across the country, according to the Washington Post. One of the largest to shut down is Smithfield Foods, a pork processor, which has shut down, or will soon close, multiple facilities.

Will this cause panic buying or a decrease in availability on local store shelves?

“Any changes in the status quo of food production will have an effect downstream,” said Chris Clark, Communications & Community Relations Manager, Triumph Foods in St. Joseph. “While I personally don’t expect any food ‘shortages’ happening in the near future, we may see prices at the grocery store increase as supply decreases.”

Triumph Foods is taking extra precautions, on top of already increased safety measures, to help ensure an outbreak doesn’t happen in St. Joseph.

“We are doing everything we can to assure our employees that their health is our No. 1 priority,” he said. “This disease is scary, but we will continue to be diligent in our efforts to keep everyone safe and healthy. We are fortunate enough to have some very innovative and creative thinking team members to make these things happen.”

Some of the steps being taken include the installation of plexi-glass dividers to enhance separation of employees during breaks and lunch periods, voluntary temperature screenings, alternative work shifts, increased staffing for intensified sanitation and relaxed attendance policies. One important part of employee safety is face masks.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is in high demand. With a national shortage of masks, but a great need to keep employees safe, Triumph found a creative way to solve the problem with help of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber member Kevin’s Nails has repurposed its nail salon into a production line for washable, reusable face masks.

“The Chamber of Commerce staff knew about the issues we’d been having when trying to find face masks,” he said. “When they told us about what this local business was doing, we jumped on it. We couldn’t be happier to support another local business in a time of crisis. Hats off to their staff for getting creative to keep their business going.”

Kristie Arthur, Director of Workforce Development at the Chamber, helped make the connection.

“This has become a win-win situation for Triumph and Kevin’s Nails,” she said. “What a great example of how the St. Joseph small and large business communities came together to support each other.”