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Rep. Clarke Leads Letter on Grocery Industry Response to Coronavirus Crisis

Letter Requests Stores Not Raise Prices on Essential Goods and Report to Congress on Supply Chain Resiliency

Brooklyn, NY – Yesterday, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) led Members of Congress, including Lloyd Doggett, (TX-35), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-at large), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Grace Meng (NY-06) and Nydia Velazquez (NY-07) in sending a letter to America’s largest food retailers requesting information about their response to the coronavirus crisis. Specifically, the letter asks that each of these chains provide Congress with a strategy to keep the shelves stocked and pledge to not raise prices for the next 60 days on staple foods (such as produce, meat, soups and grains) and essential household goods (such as hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, paper towels and toilet paper). 

Clarke said: “Even as our City shuts down life within the walls of our homes does not shut down–our human need for food doesn’t go away. My letter calls for our largest grocery stores in America to give New Yorkers and all Americans the assurances they need: stocked grocery shelves and no price-gouging on essential goods during this coronavirus pandemic.”

The letter states: “[O]ur constituents have experienced something unprecedented in recent American history: empty grocery shelves across our country. While the supermarket industry has successfully restocked its shelves in the aftermath of other emergencies that increased demand for staple foods and household goods, the coronavirus crisis is unique. Unlike previous disasters such as hurricanes which impact particular regions, COVID-19 is impacting every community in America all at once.”

The letter continues: “Americans are depending on supermarkets to deliver essential nutritional needs at an affordable cost. Fortunately, our country has an abundance of food and the probability of shortages is extraordinarily slim. However, during this pandemic, we must be prepared for any and all unforeseen challenges. Therefore, we write to you to request a comprehensive description of how each of your companies plan to keep the shelves stocked, even in the face of potential supply chain disruptions.”

The full letter is available here and below:

March, 24, 2020

Dear CEOs of Major Food Retailers:

In recent days, our constituents have experienced something unprecedented in recent American history: empty grocery shelves across our country. While the supermarket industry has successfully restocked its shelves in the aftermath of other emergencies that increased demand for staple foods and household goods, the coronavirus crisis is unique. Unlike previous disasters such as hurricanes which impact particular regions, COVID-19 is impacting every community in America all at once.

During this critical chapter, Americans are depending on supermarkets to deliver essential nutritional needs at an affordable cost. Fortunately, our country has an abundance of food and the probability of shortages is extraordinarily slim. However, during this pandemic, we must be prepared for any and all unforeseen challenges. Therefore, we write to you to request a comprehensive description of how each of your companies plan to keep the shelves stocked, even in the face of potential supply chain disruptions.

Keeping the shelves stocked is only one part of the equation, however. As Americans face the largest wave of lay-offs since the Great Recession, it is more important than ever that families can afford nutritious meals and necessary household goods. This is particularly true since we are in the midst of a public health emergency that requires Americans to maintain healthy diets and good hygiene practices. Accordingly, we are also seeking a commitment from each of your companies that you will not raise the price of any staple foods (such as fresh produce, meat or poultry products, canned soups, and grains) and in-demand household products (such as hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and paper towels), except to the extent your costs increase or you currently sell such item for below cost, for at least the next 60 days.

Right now, Americans are stockpiling groceries because they fear for what comes next. Your industry must offer Americans the assurances they need to rest easy. By providing Congress with a comprehensive plan regarding how you intend to keep the shelves stocked, and promising the American people that prices on key goods will not increase during this crisis, America’s food retailers would send a strong message that we are all in this together and that we will get through this.

We thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

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