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Coronavirus: Empty shelves becoming a common sight in Minnesota grocery stores

There's been a particular run on toilet paper.
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Concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, Minnesota shoppers have been emptying shelves at their local grocery stores.

The Minnesota Department of Health is expected on Friday to advise the public to engage in "social distancing," asking people to limit their interactions with the wider public, not attend large group events, and stay home when possible.

It asked the state's schools to try and do the same on Thursday, requiring assemblies to be dropped and recess times to be staggered.

To that end, some shoppers have left it late to get their required supplies for what could be a long stay at home, though there has been ample evidence on social media that some are taking more than they need.

Unfortunately, one of the items that shoppers appear to be hoarding is toilet paper, which while useful isn't absolutely vital to have in abundant quantities like, say, medication in the event of a weeks-long quarantine.

The run on toilet paper has been repeated the world over, but there are many more items that are hard to come by, with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes having seemingly been out of stock for weeks.

A few weeks back the Minnesota Department of Health began advising people gradually build up household food and supplies in order to ensure the robustness of supply lines. A significant number do not appear to have heeded that advice.

Target has imposed extra restrictions on purchases in the Twin Cities. Last week, it was limiting the sale of sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to 6 per customer, that's now been reduced to 4 and toilet paper and bottled water has been added to that list.

KFAN's AJ Mansour shared these photos from the Maple Grove Costco on Thursday evening.

Online shopping could provide an answer – there is currently plenty of options on Amazon for toilet paper right now, for example. 

Efforts to feed low-income, hungry residents

For all those who are spending heavily on stocking up, it's worth remembering that not everyone can afford to, especially at a time when business is being affected and workers are being asked to stay home.

Second Harvest Heartland is among the organizations trying to provide help during the pandemic, announcing a number of plans on Thursday to ensure hungry Minnesotans can get access to the food that they need.

This includes emergency food boxes, which can be accessed through the Second Harvest drive-through as well as from local food shelves.

It's also working to register people eligible for food stamps.

"This will be more important than ever, as the amount of people eligible for SNAP benefits will undoubtedly rise, including college students cut off from their on-campus meal plans and individuals who are working less or not at all," the organization said.

The organization says it needs donations to keep going during this time of crisis, with a donation of $50 enough to provide 150 meals. You can find out more here.

This will also be a point of concern in the event that schools have to shut down, with school lunches an important source of nutrition for children from low-income families. 

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