It was March 15 when I realized things would not be the same for a long time.
When I woke up that morning, I was supposed to be leaving on a family spring break trip to Daytona and then on to Charlotte, NC, for the SNAXPO conference. The coronavirus (COVID-19) had other plans.
I cried myself to sleep that night … out of the loss of our vacation, the closing of my son’s school, fear of the rapidly spreading virus (and all the unknowns that come with it) and the sick feeling of panic as supermarket shelves were depleted at an alarming rate.
We went to the grocery store that day. Having planned to be gone for a week, I had strategically planned for an empty refrigerator. I expected many families would be in the same boat and braced myself for a bit of an onslaught.
But I wasn’t prepared to see throngs of people walking out with bottled water and toilet paper by the case.
I’m no scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I can’t get my head around how a respiratory virus impacts the water and paper supply. As this began to unfold, I asked myself, “Are these people crazy, or am I ill-prepared?”
That question haunted me as I browsed the barren aisles throughout the store. And then I thought, “Thank God for the bakers.”
Throughout modern history, commercial baking has stood out in times of crisis. In the Great War, bread was rationed as soldiers went off to fight, and the women stepped in to keep the bakeries running and Americans and our soldiers fed. And then during World War II, War Food Order No. 1 mandated the enrichment of white flour, which set in motion the production of white bread that fed the allies and changed the course of its consumption for two generations.
And here we are today, with a pandemic inciting panic-buying that threatens the supply chain. And, still, the bakers are baking. And suppliers are supplying them. Amid this frightening medical and economic crisis, I hear a message that gives me hope: Our food supply is safe. Our industry is literally supplying comfort food, and for that, I thank you.
These are strange times, indeed, my friends, and it changes by the day … even the hour. As I write this from my newly setup home office, I don’t know what the world will look like by the time your eyes pass over this page.
I do know that, someday, my son will tell his children what it was like to live through the COVID-19 pandemic. When that day comes, imagine what the Bundy Museum or Baking Hall of Fame will hold. Imagine what “normal” will be.
History has shown that when all seems lost, this industry steps up and provides. The history being made now is no different.
As I shouted to my neighbor from across the street, “The bakers have got this!”
This editorial is from the April 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire issue, click here.