WASHINGTON D.C. - Reeling from the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19), a coalition of foodservice distributors wrote a joint letter to the Trump Administration and Congress on March 30 asking for financial assistance to secure the country’s food supply during the outbreak. 

Led by US Foods and Performance Food Group (PFG), the coalition includes Ben E. Keith Co., The Chefs’ Warehouse, Dot Foods, Gordon Food Service, Merchants Foodservice, Nicholas and Company, Shamrock Foods Company and Stanz Foodservice. 

The letter explains that with increased demand from consumers who are now making dinners at home and shopping for food at the grocery store instead of dining in a restaurant, the foodservice distribution industry—which does not typically source food to grocers—has experienced severe financial loss. The National Restaurant Association estimates the industry could lose up to $225 billion and cut 5-7 million jobs over the next three months. 

“This crisis demands that everyone come together to find new, solution-oriented ways to help – a role that we embrace. In response, our companies are already using our existing capacity to fill stopgap shortages,” the coalition said.  

“Right now, we have available capacity and a workforce ready and willing to help meet the needs that the country will face as the pandemic continues.Given our nationwide reach, experienced driver workforce, warehousing capabilities, and transportation assets, our industry is well-positioned to provide transportation services for food and non-food items as part of the federal COVID-19 response." 

In the last few weeks, the industry has formed several partnerships with grocery retailers and suppliers. The International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), Mclean, Va., partnered with FMI – The Food Industry Association, Arlington, Va., to match foodservice distributors with excess capacity with grocery retailers in need of additional resources. The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, has also partnered with several foodservice distributors to create a shared-resource model to temporarily flex employees to Kroger stores. 

US Foods has started leveraging its warehouse and transportation network to support the wholesale grocery sector, PFG recently delivered 250 cases of pork and ground beef to a retail grocery distribution center in Brooklyn, NY, and Shamrock is delivering meat and produce to grocers in the Western United States. But even with sourcing inventory and assistance to the grocery industry, foodservice distributors are still experiencing financial setbacks. 

“This kind of transition, even if temporary, takes time and investment as we adjust our warehousing, logistics and purchasing processes to meet a consumer-facing market,” the coalition said in the letter to the president. 

The foodservice distribution industry continues to serve hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living centers, restaurants, schools, military bases, hotels, entertainment venues, correction facilities and other public service institutions that are vital in the response to COVID-19. 

The distributors point out that Title IV of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has the power to provide a key source of financial support to the struggling industry and help sustain the food distribution network. 

“We ask you to urge the Treasury Department to establish a priority for loan applications from the foodservice distribution industry,” the coalition said. “We look forward to supporting the federal COVID-19 response and working with you to implement the CARES Act in a manner that will secure our nation’s food supply during this crisis.”