Coronavirus Panic Clears Store Shelves, Leaving Autistic Child with Food Aversions Nothing to Eat

Shireen Hu is the mother of two children with special needs, both of whom struggle with selective eating. Her 15-year-old son, Khovan, does alright with his picky eating, but her 6-year-old daughter, Raqayya, who lives with autism spectrum disorder, has aversions to many types of food and will only eat very specific things, such as a particular type of pasta sold at Tesco.

With the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, causing people in many parts of the world to go into full panic mode, the shelves of countless stores are empty, leaving Hu and others like her without access to the basic necessities she and her kids need to survive. But while others are looking for basics like toilet paper, bread, and soap, Hu is spending her time searching for the foods her children will eat, as her options are limited in that area.

Photo: Adobe Stock/trongnguyen

“My kids will only eat specific food and it is impossible to get as shelves are emptying because people are panic buying,” says Hu. “It isn’t fair.”

The food items Hu usually buys for her children are sold out both online and in-store in several locations. She’s been unable to stock up on things they will eat and worries they will go hungry rather than eat the food that’s available.

“Tesco’s own brand red pesto is her main meal source,” Hu says. “Raqayya will eat toast and Coco Pops, but the pasta was a hot meal choice for her. Until the last few months, she only ate German salami, toast, and breadsticks. It was massive that she introduced this new food, and now I can’t get it.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/Irina K.

As a mother, Hu, of course, only wants the best for her children. Like other parents of children with food aversions, she encourages her kids to branch out and eat healthier and more diverse foods, but there’s only so much that can be done. This is simply her family’s reality, and it’s not fair that she isn’t able to meet their needs.

“I understand people wanting to stock up a little extra, but for it to be unavailable means people are probably buying months’ worth of dry food supplies,” says Hu. “I think it is sensible to add a few extra dry food items to every shop in case of illness or emergencies, but there is no need to buy the whole supermarket.”

So remember the people with food aversions and allergies. Remember the parents of children who are in diapers and need baby wipes. Remember the severely immunocompromised people who wear masks every day and go through lots of soap and hand sanitizer just to stay healthy, even when there’s not a pandemic. Remember the elderly who weren’t able to beat the rush to get to the stores before essential items ran out. Remember that every item you’re buying is one that someone else desperately needs. Leave some behind so that we can all have access to what we truly need.

Elizabeth Nelson

Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?

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