Shortage of waffles a real crisis

Posted Nov. 22, 2009, at 7:19 p.m.

When I wrote last week’s column, I sincerely had no idea that Eggo, the frozen waffle company, is in the midst of a nationwide shortage. I had, of course, noticed that the waffle section of our grocery store was bare, save for a friendly note attached to the shelf that read: “We are working to restock this item,” but I didn’t realize conditions were the same elsewhere across the country. For about a month, I have been unable to buy my boys the Eggo waffles they love and was left with no option but to buy the store-brand version, which went over like a frozen stack of waffles.

The thought occurred to me, however briefly, that there might in fact be an explanation for why the waffle shelf for so long has looked like the bread and water aisles before a hurricane, and one night, on my way home from the grocery store, I had the idea to Google it. Oh, but that’s so silly, I thought. How could there be a waffle shortage? I experienced a gasoline shortage in Florida after Hurricane Ivan, and the refrigerated cookie dough shelf was vacant after that salmonella scare a few months ago, but waffles? What catastrophe could possibly cause a waffle shortage?

I knew that I had more pressing matters to Google, such as why my children won’t eat oatmeal, so by the time I got inside the house and unloaded the groceries, I had already forgotten about the missing waffles. Perhaps I also chose not to pursue the mystery of the empty frozen breakfast shelf because to do so would expose me as the kind of mother who doesn’t fix her children eggs and toast in the morning. When Dustin asked me for waffle status updates, he did so out of the corner of his mouth: “Any word on when the you-know-whats will be back at the store?” We never mentioned the dilemma to our friends, although I suspect the scarcity of waffles was a pink elephant in the room at many a parental gathering over the last few weeks.

Then I outed our family in my column as the waffle-lovers that we are. And readers surprised me with links to news about Eggo’s nationwide shortage. Apparently, the company’s plant in Atlanta was shut down in September after record amounts of rain flooded the area. And in Rossville, Tenn., home of the company’s largest bakery, many of the production lines are closed for repairs. With output crippled by the closures, Eggo estimates that it will be summer 2010 before supplies around the country reach their normal levels.

Some readers also surprised me with a scolding for feeding my children such “poison.” (Imagine if these readers knew what my kids sometimes eat for dinner! No, not real poison, but close to it: chicken tenders and fries.) One claimed that a persistent theme is emerging in my column: My children flop on the floor when they don’t get their way. So let me take this opportunity to clarify. Only one of our children is a floor flopper. The youngest prefers to slap and scream, and the oldest just says “WHAT?!?!” in a high-pitched whine that is more offensive to my ears than the sound of two marbles rubbing together. Which is to say, fear not, worried reader; we have the whole realm of disobedience here at the Smiley house.

Incidentally, our floor flopper, who shall from this point forward remain nameless, was teased by one of his peers about my column, and he has requested to never again appear on these pages. (There goes a fifth of my writing material.) I suggested he tell the teaser that while he (the teaser) was up reading the newspaper before school, my son (the flopper) was playing Wii. That’s right, not only do I feed my children waffles for breakfast, I let them play Wii in the morning, too. So far, aside from the flopping, slapping and whining, they seem well-adjusted.

But back to the waffles. According to NPR, Eggo company spokeswoman Kris Charles stated in an e-mail that “the existing stock of Eggos will be distributed nationally based on stores’ sales histories of the waffles.” Meaning: Stores that sell the most will receive the most. You can thank me later if you live near me and our grocery store restocks some of the precious remaining waffles.

A waffle shortage. Who would have thought? Certainly not the readers who believe frozen breakfast is poison. I take comfort in the fact that for a nationwide shortage to make headline news means that I’m not the only one who has noticed. Maybe even I’m not the only one with kids flopping on the floor. (Perhaps I will attach a Swiffer duster to him until the waffles return full force in the summer.) Empty waffle shelves across the country clearly mean that I am not alone at the toaster oven.

Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. Her new book, “I’m Just Saying …”, is available wherever books are sold. She may be reached at sarah@sarahsmiley.com.

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