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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Now that we're all sheltering in place, convenient childhood food favorites — like hot dogs, soup, and macaroni and cheese — are trumping the healthy options that prevailed pre-coronavirus.

Why it matters: A lot of food trends from the beginning of the year — the popularity of plant-based meat substitutes, low-alcohol/no-alcohol drinks, and products billed as organic or sustainable — have been tossed out the window.

Driving the news: Frozen foods (vegetables, pizzas, entrees) have seen historic sales increases, while canned goods and processed foods (soups, beans, tomato sauce) have been flying off of supermarket shelves.

  • Among people who can afford it, meal kits are enjoying a renaissance (reviving the fortunes of companies like Blue Apron).
  • Restaurant chains like Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A are even introducing meal kits of their own, so people can get the ingredients needed to make their favorite dishes delivered — and the stores can recoup some lost sales.
  • Companies trying this include Denny's, Panera Bread and Just Salad, per the WSJ.
  • Denny's Complete Breakfast Meal Kit, for example, "serves four to six and contains bacon strips, eggs, milk, biscuits or English muffins, grapes, strawberries, assorted jelly packets, and Signature Diner Blend Coffee with a variety of sweeteners," per Progressive Grocer.

On the beverage side, the "sober curious" consumers who made "Dry January" such a big thing this year have been drowned out by the bored and anxious, who are driving up booze sales, quaffing "quarantinis" and hoisting Corona beer during Zoom happy hours.

  • The rise in drinking — beer, wine and cocktails included — stems from the same instincts as the ones driving us to childhood favorites like cookies, French fries and pancakes.
  • "It goes back to what I can control and what will calm me down," Suzy Badaracco, CEO of the food industry consultancy Culinary Tides, tells Axios.
  • By the same token, dairy — once villainized — is making a comeback. "It's a complete protein, and it's calming to the senses," Badaracco says. "Whether it's ice cream or cheese or butter — it's comfort food."

What to watch: Faux meats — plant-based foods that are eaten primarily by non-vegetarians — may wane in popularity, Badaracco says.

  • Even with a national meat shortage, she thinks people will seek out alternative sources of protein, like legumes, rather than imitation burgers.
  • "COVID-19 will push meat eaters back to animal protein at an accelerated pace, while vegetarians will celebrate plants being plants," she says.
  • And "sustainability sales," which include organic foods, will continue to decelerate "due to cost, not desire," Badaracco says.

The intrigue: A Facebook group called Quarantine Meals, where people from around the world share pictures of food they're eating or cooking, has drawn 41,000 members in less than a month.

  • People are showing off homemade focaccia and sourdough bread (if they can get hold of yeast and flour), sushi, hand-cut pasta, regional dishes like shakshuka (a Middle Eastern tomato-egg casserole) and elaborate charcuterie boards.
  • Despite reports of beef shortages at Wendy's and elsewhere, group members are uploading pictures of meats they've grilled or cured in backyard smokehouses.
  • "The trending method seems to be the reverse sear, where they cook a steak in the oven and then sear it at the end," Todd Rubin, the Chicago restaurateur who founded the Facebook group, tells Axios.

The bottom line: Amid sad news stories about farmers having to discard their harvests and food pantries running out of groceries for people down on their luck, the joy that quarantine eating can still bring us is a hopeful sign.

  • Of the meal-sharing Facebook group he founded, Rubin told me: "People have said, 'This is helping me get through this — it keeps my mind off the negativity out there.'"

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

8 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.