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Supermarkets Strived to Keep Us Fed During the Pandemic—Now They Must Change Some Practices.

Jorge has published peer-reviewed academic articles and popular science and political opinion content.


I praise Supermarkets for the momentous effort invested in adapting to the pandemic's safety measures. With a few exceptions, we have enjoyed an uninterrupted food supply during one of the most treacherous times of the last sixty years.

But supermarkets must do more to expedite grocery shopping and cut the time customers spend in the building—a critical aspect to control the pandemic, enable efficiency, and procure consumers' satisfaction.

One concern is the shoppers' mobility. After months of one-way aisle traffic, the measure continues to be questionable, if not outright cumbersome. Last Saturday, list in hand and mask on face, I came to a Wal-Mart for a select number of items that serendipitously happened to be mostly in odd-numbered isles. But I still had to walk them all to avoiding infringing the grocery maze directionality, lengthening my indoor time and stumbling into unaware shoppers.

After negotiating my way to the spot where I had purchased table salt a few months ago, I found that the sodium chloride had dissolved away as now macaroni filled the shelf. Frustrated, I stepped out from the aisle and gaped up to the hanging signage.

Good luck with that. In addition to the products' migration, there isn't nearly any information on what's where—old, no longer acceptable artifices to deliberately keep you in the store under the premise that confusion prompts you to buy more.

On my trek, I discovered the full rice stockpile split between aisles five and one. The latter is the "International Foods" aisle—an embryonic mini-version of the store where foodstuffs seem to confound in simile to the biblical language-scattering myth.

I understand pet food should be in a separate section—no one wants to erroneously consume an uncertified-for-humans bone puree. But why do "Asian", "Caribbean", and "Portuguese" foods, among others, have a separate section? In contrast to canines' meals, Chow Mein noodles and plantain chips are perfectly appropriate for every Homo sapiens regardless of where they came from. In fact, most of the items in the "international" sections are different brands of the same products found in common aisles.

The layout neither facilitates finding certain products.

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First, if you are shopping for, say pasta, you might want to compare all the available options at once rather than navigating through dozens of yards of supermarket traffic—and dawdle about—to look at what else is available in the Italian section. This, providing that you know that there is such a hidden stash of Cusina Italiana somewhere else; if you do not, you could miss altogether the product that might have fit your needs better.

Second, in this globalized world, most people enjoy diverse cuisine, then why do not offer all the options in one place to everyone?

And third, whatever obscure essence classified the products by cultural or geographical origins seems to know very little about ethnography and international cuisine. How come is condensed milk Caribbean or yellow cornmeal Middle Easterner or Nescafe Asian? And why is bottled water a Portuguese drink, even if it came from Portugal?

For another ambiguous reason, British fare (such as coconut cream biscuits and tomato soup) has its section outside of the international aisle. Perhaps Britons are not so foreign to Canada. However, Mexicans are also out. Four full aisles away from the rest of the world.

I left the store with my products and the sense that retail needs to do much more to meet the public's safety and interests. Supermarkets should exhibit a map of what's where, display more informative signage, stop the practice of relocating products and do away with the segregation of ethnic food.

Key Words

Supermarkets, stores, groceries, food supply, Pandemic, COVID-19, ethnic food, segregation, ethnic food, ethnography, culture, cuisine, measures, food segregation, international food, aisle, international food aisle.


To David Chang, the ‘ethnic’ food aisle is racist. Others say it’s convenient. The Washington Post

Edgaras Katinas. Is The Ethnic Food Aisle Racist? Medium

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