COVID-19 Continues to Take a Toll on Food Industry
Oct 15, 2023

COVID-19 Continues to Take a Toll on Food Industry

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas — A chef for several sororities in West Campus encountered a challenge shortly after beginning his job a few months ago.

Chef Tyler Henderson had an issue with food stocking, recipes, and menus due to the lasting effects the pandemic had on the food industry.

The pandemic affected the food production process from farmer to consumer, according to the Oxford Academic. It caused production facilities to close, restricted food trade policies, and put financial pressures on the food supply chain.

“Our product attributes we used for years are no longer available post-COVID,” Henderson said.

“As a chef in this day, you have to be prepared for anything.”

Henderson said he had to get creative and use sweet potato starch as an alternative to flour and alternatives for sriracha sauce because there is a nationwide shortage of these highly-requested items.

Chef Tyler Henderson washes dishes after preparing and serving lunch at a West Campus dining hall in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 10, 2023. (Nicola Iannelli/ Reporting Texas TV)

The shortage also forced Henderson to repeat menu items. He said he has grown frustrated having to reuse items like shrimp three times a week instead of being able to diversify the menu.

These shortages have taken a toll on university students.

Sabine Sharp, a UT student and West Campus resident, said she appreciates Henderson’s flexibility, but finds the limited menu rather inconvenient.

“The only gluten-free bread option was a burger bun,” Sharp said. “French toast, sandwiches, and casseroles all on burger buns became really tiring and limited my meals.”

Shyrl-Ann Hunt, a house manager for several off-campus resident halls, said stock shortages are not the only concern in the post-pandemic food industry, as food delivery also struggles. Her job is to keep the snack kitchen stocked for students to make meals when food services cannot be provided.

“I placed orders but no one would be available to deliver,” Hunt said. “The stock was down to zero, and I had to make the run to three different locations to ensure students had food.”

Hunt and Henderson said they seek a permanent solution to feed and accommodate students.