Bare shelves greet customers at local Food Basics, Metro (5 photos)

‘I worry about young families. If you can’t get basics, vegetables and fruit, that’s going to impact a lot of people,’ says customer; problem likely short-lived

Since more than 900 workers at an Etobicoke distribution center went on strike last weekend, shoppers at the local Metro and Food Basics stores have been seeing more and more empty shelves and barren racks.

Members of the Unifor Local 414 Metro Distribution Center union are set to vote on a tentative agreement today that could end the strike, but local shoppers say they are concerned about broader supply chain issues that have affected the world since the beginning of the pandemic.

Food Basics customer Larry Smith said the lack of available products at both the local Metro and Food Basics stores has made him worry about the impact on young families.

“I went to Metro yesterday and was surprised that the items I wanted were completely gone,” he said.

“(The) first thing I thought about was (if there had been) some kind of labor disturbance, and how this is affecting people because there are shortages of different kinds of foods already,” said Smith.

“I worry about young families,” he added. “I walk down the cereal aisle often and see that there isn’t the amount of foods or the variety that you’d like to see, and the prices are going up. If you can’t get basics, vegetables and fruit, that’s going to impact a lot of people.”

Though bare shelves have been an occasional problem since the beginning of COVID-19, Smith said the lack of available products made him think more about the ongoing war in Ukraine, and how the rest of the world is vulnerable to its impacts.

“It worried me more about the people in Ukraine because they’re obviously not getting anything,” he said. “It bothered me to think about what could happen around the world, what is happening around the world.”

A senior couple, Judy and Jim (who declined to provide their surnames), said they are not personally concerned about reduced product selections yet.

“I’ve traditionally kept a pretty large pantry downstairs,” said Judy, while shopping at Food Basics in west Orillia. “We could ride it out for about three, four weeks before I’d be concerned.”

Jim wondered why the recent reopening of the economy has continued to affect supply chains, beyond the strike that is taking place.

“I believe there’s quite a number of people have been re-employed where they have been previously,” he said. “We’re very close to full employment, but I suspect there’s a lot of places that can’t get the workers they had. Now, why this is a factor impacting products, I’m not sure.”

Like Smith, he wondered whether the situation in Ukraine might have a broader effect on supply chains around the world.

“I was just reading that that’s starting to impact the food supplies in other parts of the world, so I guess we’re not going to be immune to that.”

Officials at the Orillia Metro location declined to comment for the story.

The Orillia Food Basics manager was notable to respond prior to publication.

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