Going north for scarce items could stress small town infrastructures

by | Apr 8, 2020 | News

Nicholas Rahmon, News Reporter

Toronto area residents frantic because their local grocery stores are cleared of key items because of the COVID-19 pandemic can most likely find them an hour and a half away.

However, the good which could come from filling the car up with gas, packing a few snacks, and setting the GPS to a Canadian Superstore in a Central Ontario town may not be a good idea.

Anthony Giuga, a mobile mortgage specialist for RBC, said he drove to Midland, about 52 kilometres north of Barrie, to shop for things he couldn’t find in the Greater Toronto Area.

Then he thought it wasn’t necessarily a good idea.

“When you have a few people going, it wouldn’t be a problem as you’re not disturbing anything,” Giuga said in a telephone interview.

He said it could become a significant issue if it becomes a trend, potentially putting extra pressure on medical infrastructure in smaller communities.

“When you have this significant population influx now, everyone is short-staffed, and if [grocery stores] have an extra 200 people they didn’t think about, it will put a strain on the medical system and grocery stores,” Giuga said.

He decided when he returned home to take his chances at the grocery stores near his home.

The toilet paper aisle is empty as people shop at a Walmart Supercentre amid coronavirus fears spreading in Toronto on March 13. Some people may travel to smaller communities in rural Ontario to find supplies. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

The first instinct people experience as the contagious disease keeps spreading in a big city is to visit the nearest store and buy out supplies.

But those who live in smaller towns and cities outside the GTA apparently don’t feel the need to hoard toilet paper.

“Going up north for grocery shopping is a good idea in case (local) stores don’t have what the customer needs,” said Amanda Yacoub, a barista and cashier at Coppa’s in King City.

Yacoub said in a video call interview people can overreact when shopping.

“They can get very dramatic about a product we might not have in stock, sometimes it goes as far as them wanting to talk to the manager, and the situation escalating quickly.”

Barrie area residents like Samer Saati, director of Human Resources at AIL Canada, saw shoppers visiting stores in a timely manner and getting enough groceries for two weeks.

“It’s a natural reaction [to overstock items] because they were never in this kind of crisis before,” Saati said in an email interview.

“However, things are calming down now, at least in my area, and you’re finding fewer shoppers at the grocery stores.”

He said stores started limiting all kinds of items to two per family to keep enough supplies for everyone.