Faculty News

Grocery shopping and food waste during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has required many people to change their grocery shopping behaviors, which in turn has disrupted demand in the supply chain, according to Shelie Miller, associate professor at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability and director of the U-M Program in the Environment.

In this episode of Michigan Minds, Miller discusses how the shock in demand from panic buying impacts food waste. 

“We still have as much as we expected to have. What’s really changing is how people are shopping,” she explains. “What we are seeing in a shock in demand, not a shock in supply.”

Since restaurants and schools are closed as a result of Michigan’s stay at home order, Miller says, people are buying more food in grocery stores, and the stores are scrambling to meet the new demand. 

Food waste is a concern. “Yes, there are people buying more than they need. We are trying to discourage that as much as possible,” she says. 

As a rule, Americans waste 30 to 40 percent of food, Miller says. Panic shopping increases the potential for wasting both food and money. 

Miller recommends planning out meals and making a shopping list, with some flexibility because some items might not be available. 

“Be mindful of trying to keep food waste low, and remember that this isn’t for forever,” she says. 

Learn more about grocery shopping behavior and food waste in this episode of the Michigan Minds podcast

Read more from Miller in this Q&A