It happened seemingly overnight.
Once jam-packed with potatoes, mushrooms and rice, our grocery store shelves suddenly found themselves barren. And for the first time in most of our lives, many of us experienced the impact of supply chain problems. While some of the dearth of products can be attributed to hoarding or individuals seeking to take advantage of widespread fear and make a quick buck by reselling in-demand goods, the spread of COVID-19 rapidly shifted the situation.
As news of the global coronavirus pandemic spread, the crisis forced countless organizations — even entire industries — to rethink and transform their operations as they worked to respond to business disruption and supply chain challenges at scales we’ve never seen before.
For some, however, supply chain disruption means more than inconvenience. Consider what can happen when you’re food insecure and the supply chain breaks.
When the crisis struck Colorado, that was the unfortunate reality for entirely too many individuals and families who rely on food pantries and meal programs to keep food on the table. On a mission to eliminate hunger in Boulder and Broomfield counties, Community Food Share fights hunger in the community by providing access to fresh, nutritious food through local partners and on-site and mobile pantries.
But when local partners (read: restaurants) were forced to close to curb the spread of the disease, the flow of excess food provided to the nonprofit immediately came to a halt. At the same time, due to the pandemic, more people needed the organization’s assistance than ever before.
In March, CFS distributed 1.1 million pounds of food, a 48% increase compared to the previous year — and a 39-year record for the food bank. But decreased supply coupled with increased demand meant the nonprofit was forced to purchase 233% extra food for the month, and the organization expects its annual purchasing costs to double what it planned for, further stretching the already limited budget.
But CFS is not alone. In fact, a recent report from the Charities Aid Foundation of America revealed 96.5% of nonprofits reported negative impacts related to the virus, including a drop in contributions; travel restrictions disrupting contact with clients, donors and recipients; issues with client relations; disruptions to staffing or operations; increased costs; and disrupted supply chains.
Consider our local humane societies as other examples. Animal shelters across the country reported an uptick in people fostering animals during the pandemic, but the empty cages might actually be a sign of a supply chain disruption. Pre-pandemic, states in the South often had way more dogs than they knew what to do with. As such, shelters and humane societies developed a network of animal transports to send dogs in vans to high-demand areas in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. But when the pandemic hit, much of that transport network shut down along with the rest of the economy.
From food shelters to animal shelters and beyond, the nonprofit community is clearly hurting and in need of help. While our company is not a restaurant with food to give, we have a long history of participating in Community Food Share’s Corporate Challenge — and felt compelled to do more in light of the difficult situation. This year, Cardinal Peak doubled its contributions from the year prior, but we still need more companies and individuals across the community to help this great cause, as well as other local charities.
If your company is already working with a nonprofit organization, find out if disrupted supply chains are negatively impacting the work they do and ask how you can help. Or if you’re in a position to donate to CFS, visit https://communityfoodshare.org/donations.
Mark Carrington is CEO of Cardinal Peak, an organization that helps bring innovations to market.