<span>Photograph: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/KJzj7cu3IFjl.BaEJJDgJw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNQ–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_guardian_765/24200e5e809b9f720f50168f729fef5d” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/KJzj7cu3IFjl.BaEJJDgJw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNQ–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_guardian_765/24200e5e809b9f720f50168f729fef5d”></img></p><figcaption><span>Photograph: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images</span></figcaption></figure>
<p>As <a data-ylk=coronavirus spreads in the US, many people are stockpiling essentials for what they believe will be periods of home confinement and panicked shoppers have stripped many US grocery stores of staples ranging from bread and milk to meat and toilet paper.

But, in fact, the virus currently poses little threat to the integrity of the US food supply. It is panic-buying itself that is causing the real disruption.

Experts interviewed by the Guardian said that while the grocery supply chain is generally fine at this point, rapid, dramatic shifts in consumer behavior have temporarily disrupted the market.

Related: Is it safe – and ethical – to order food online during the coronavirus outbreak?

Trump himself has sought to assuage fears by urging the country not to hoard groceries amid the outbreak, saying he had a call with grocery industry leaders who urged him to speak out against hoarding.

“They have actually asked me to say: ‘Could you buy a little bit less, please?’ I thought I’d never hear that from a retailer,” Trump remarked, also saying: “They have no shortages. We have no shortages other than people buying anywhere from three to five times [more].”

People don’t appear to have listened. There are still many spaces on supermarket shelves where bathroom tissue and milk should be.

So what, exactly, is going on?

Annelies Goger, a fellow with the Brookings Institution specializing in workforce and safety net programs, said that a widespread shift to work-from-home mandates played a role. Because people were working outside the home, they dined at more restaurants. Some companies provided meals to their employees. More than 50% of food expenditures were consumed away from home, Goger noted.

“Now, all those people are working from home and most of them are making food, and buying it at a grocery store, instead of going out,” Goger said. “Overnight, the channels whereby people are getting food are just completely changing.”

Daniel St

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