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Restaurants have had to shut down due to pandemic-related food shortages

A food shortage is affecting restaurants across the Valley and beyond, and experts say one of the main factors here has been the pandemic.

"We’ve been able to, like, skate by with the skin of our teeth, but there is, like, shortage of everything right now, from napkins to peanut butter to chicken," said Justine Dachel, who owns Jewel's Cafe in Phoenix.

Dachel's restaurant had to close down on May 19, because they couldn't get enough chicken from their supplier. Most of the items on the gluten-free cafe's menu are chicken.

"Chicken is 75% of our menu, also, since most of our customers are gluten-free, so our fried chicken is something they can’t really get anywhere else, so it’s a really popular item. It's going really quickly," said restaurant manager Allee DeCoste.

DeCoste says a food shortage has been an ongoing trend for the last year, and has worsened in recent weeks.

We are even busier now too, so our suppliers keeping up with us has been an issue, and us keeping up with our customers has been an issue," said DeCoste.

As of May 20, Jewel's Cafe is back open, and chicken is in stock.

Agricultural business professor speaks out

Lauren Chenarides, an assistant professor at the Morrison School of Agrobusiness at Arizona State University, says she’s been seeing food shortages across the board.

"The COVID Pandemic really impacted the food supply chain," said Chenarides. "We saw that demand for food service declines considerably from the past year."

That demand, however, is suddenly jumping back up as people have started getting vaccinated, and are venturing out to restaurants once again.

"Now, we're starting to see the ripple effects, because we didn’t have the labor to produce all the food,: said Chenarides. "We couldn’t really keep up with the output that we need."

Chenarides added that there are some other factors contributing to the shortage, including severe weather in Texas in February. The state is a major area for producing chicken.

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