Cover picture provided by WeHeart

As if the past two years couldn’t get worse, with the pandemic and devastating wildfires, British Columbia declared yet another state of emergency as of November 17th, 2021 due to the severe floods that have devastated Merrit, the Fraser Valley, and BC’s main highways--among other communities. “The B.C. government is declaring a provincial state of emergency to mitigate impacts on transportation networks and movement of essential goods and supplies, and to support the provincewide response and recovery from the widespread damage caused by severe flooding and landslides in British Columbia.” For further context, refer to our latest article regarding the current disastrous climate events in BC and the surrounding Okanagan area here

Not surprisingly, this overwhelming natural disaster is devastating our communities and impacting supply chains, “Every major transportation route between the Lower Mainland and the Interior has been cut by washouts, flooding or landslides following [the] record-breaking rainfall.” To be sure, people are anxious and scared. Families are losing their homes, livestock are quite literally drowning, and grocery stores are facing temporary shipping delays as a result of this provincial emergency. 

The delay in food supply, in particular, has resulted in residents of Kelowna panic-buying and hoarding necessities, clearing out local grocery shelves, and, effectively, creating a city-wide frenzy. All anybody can talk about is how grocery stores like Superstore and Walmart are extremely bare after citizens decided to stock up on as many supplies as possible, as quickly as possible, without any regard to those who cannot afford to stockpile resources. In fact, “Seniors with mobility issues and those on low income are expected to be among the hardest hit as many consumers fill up their pantries with a lot more than they need.” 

Speaking from my own experience of going to Superstore amidst this panic, the grocery lineups seem eternal and the anxiety palpable. This mania feels like deja-vu; we all have a collective memory of when the hoarding of groceries and toilet paper created unnecessary panic at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Why haven’t we learned our lesson? Why are we still giving in to irrational consumer anxiety? 

 “‘You’re not going to run out of food,’ said Greg Wilson, director of government relations (B.C.) for the Retail Council of Canada.” Wilson continues to explain, “Despite the highway closures impacting the supply chain, the Interior is well connected to other supply sources and will continue to receive product.” Kelowna’s rapid and chaotic consumerism is particularly puzzling and disheartening, for it is clear that this delay is temporary and that alternative routes will be taken in order to provide residents with all of their necessities. So what do we do in the meantime? The head of the BC Trucking Association, Dave Earle, offers one solution: that everyone calm down. “‘The goods are coming,’” Earle emphasizes. 

The onus is on us, then, to be patient as truckers work tirelessly to provide solutions to pressing problems. It is the very least we can do. Stop panic buying and hoarding food and necessities. Take only what you need. Think of others.

Students who are facing food insecurity can utilize UBCO’s student foodbank, Pantry, which works to “address the very real, immediate need our students have for emergency food supplies.” It is especially important during these times of crisis that we tap into compassion and empathy for others. To quote the ever-repeated but ever-important phrase coined by Dr. Bonnie Henry at the start of the pandemic: be kind, be calm, be safe.