Why Some San Diego Grocery Stores Are Short on or Missing Items

Spread of the omicron variant, winter weather and a lack of truck drivers and other workers have made a challenging supply-chain situation worse

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Many grocery stores in San Diego are running low or missing everyday items, a situation that has fluctuated throughout the pandemic.

“Last week, there was no ground beef here,” San Marcos shopper Diane Woodcock told NBC 7 on Tuesday.

There are shortages at some grocery stores because of a lack of packing materials like aluminum and cardboard, plus production delays, says Oklahoma State University professor Rodney Holcomb. Holcomb is optimistic things will improve - and says our host Eric Alvarez doesn't need to panic-buy all the Lunchables to make lunch for his kids.

In a typical year, 5-10% of grocery items may be unavailable. Recently, though, roughly 15% of items are currently out of stock nationwide.

"While there is plenty of food in the supply chain, we anticipate consumers will continue to experience sporadic disruptions in certain product categories as we have seen over the past year and half due to the continued supply and labor challenges," National Grocers Association president Greg Ferrara said.

The shortage is being blamed on a soaring demand for groceries, with many Americans eating at home during the omicron surge, winter storms paralyzing major interstates and disrupting supplies, and food-manufacturer and grocery-store employees out sick with COVID.

Todd Walters is president of the union that represents more than 12,500 store workers in San Diego County.

“It’s a very busy, crazy time for all of us right now,” Walters said. “It’s really causing problems on a multitude of levels, where you’ve got workers who are afraid of using all their sick pay, they choose to go to work when they shouldn’t, causing other workers to get exposed.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg addressed the supply-chain issue earlier this month in Los Angeles.

"Until we have the pandemic behind us, and until we take the steps we need to make the supply chains resilient for the long term, we're gonna continue to face issues any given month,” Buttigieg said.

Some San Diego customers have been going store to store to try to check off items on their lists.

“We did buy some TV dinners, so we could substitute that if we didn’t get what we wanted," shopper Jerry Rutschman said, “but we didn’t have that much of a problem.”

Others are willing to wait.

“They don’t have it; they don’t have it," shopper Elena Cerda said. "I just wait until whenever the shipment comes in."

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