On January 20, 2020, the first case of the Novel Coronavirus was announced in the United States. A man from Washington state who had recently returned from a visit to Wuhan, China was identified as “Patient zero” in the U.S. Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease expert at the University of Chicago Medicine delivered her speech beside Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot about the implications of the virus. She stated, “This virus is unforgiving. It spreads before you even know you've caught it. And it tricks you into believing that it's nothing more than a little influenza. For many of us, it may not be much more than the flu. And so it could be very confusing as to why schools are closed, restaurants are shuttered.” For many Americans, school closures and shelter in place orders are only the beginning of an extensive list of hardships. With shoppers flocking to stores to purchase last-minute needs for the indefinite quarantine period, only empty shelves and deserted stockrooms remain.
Working at one of these stores, I quickly recognized which items were golden for panicked shoppers when the COVID-19 pandemic went from a story on the news to a daily reality for all. Canned vegetables, loaves of bread, and cereal boxes disappeared from shelves just as quickly as they could be restocked, leaving many without a reliable source of food. In times of crisis, it’s essential to assess your family’s needs in comparison to others’. With the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus, nearly 38,500,000 Americans who rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits via their EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards are forced to navigate scare food supplies2 For this reason, it is crucial that the needs of SNAP-reliant Americans are met. While food pantries such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository are generously leaving their doors open during these difficult times, it goes without saying that more effort is needed to support poor families. To combat the Coronavirus, it is critical to leave staple foods (Fruit, meat, dairy, bread) for SNAP beneficiaries who need to
buy these foods before taking your portion of them. Times like these demand adaptability, so prioritizing others before yourself is a small change that can make a big difference.
1 Landon, Emily, Dr. "Dr. Emily Landon Speaks about COVID-19 at Illinois Governor's Press Conference." The University of Chicago Medicine, U of Chicago Medical Center, 20 Mar. 2020, www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/emily-landon-speaks-about- covid-19-at-illinois-governors-press-conference.
2 "SNAP Data Tables." Food and Nutrition Service: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 Apr. 2020, www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap.
3 "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates and Information." Greater Chicago Food Depository, www.chicagosfoodbank.org/coronavirus-updates/.
4 "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): What Can SNAP Buy?" Food and Nutrition Service: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 4 Sept. 2013, www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items.