While the global coronavirus pandemic has caused some Americans to consider how to use it to accelerate the collapse of society and others to line up in droves to buy ammunition, one army-surplus store is pushing an unlikely product on its customers: Flour.
KommandoStore, which operates out of St. Paul, Minnesota, is providing all the doomsday goods one would expect. It offers gas masks, protective rubber gloves, premade meals, respirators, and Rhodesian military patches—popular tokens among white supremacists who glorify the former African state, which had a white minority government that brutally ruled over what is now Zimbabwe. It's also hawking a 50-pound bag of flour for less than $25, for the prepper who hasn't bothered to prep.
"It's not the 50s, the food pyramid doesn't go bread, bread, bread, meat, bread anymore," copy on its site reads. "However when the trucks stop rolling and uber eats stops delivering what are you going to do?"
KommandoStore, which declined to comment on its sale of Rhodesian military patches, told VICE that it wasn’t able to respond to press inquiries because it was “prioritizing our existing effort to distribute PPE inventory at cost to hospitals/EMS etc.” Recently, it said it had diverted a stash of personal protective equipment worth over $300,000 to hospitals and emergency services after a Twitter follower accused the store of "spreading fear" and being in position to profit from the pandemic.
That it would be getting into the flour game, though, makes a certain amount of sense.
As hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people stock up on whatever they can buy (flooding survival stores in the progress), preppers are finally getting their chance to see how they’re planning has held up. Some are doing their best to use what they learned to help others get through the pandemic. Others look down at the lowly “panic buyers.” Many, though, are coming to the realization that maybe, just maybe, they didn’t prepare all that well themselves.
The pitch for flour stockpiling—not typically offered at Army-surplus stores—comes on the heels of the booming bread craze, which has caused flour shortages in some grocery stores in the U.S. These stores are popular among doomsday preppers, who buy purportedly essential survival gear like gas masks, army-certified attire, and long-lasting food rations.
Plenty of vendors are offering variants of military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). Bradley’s Surplus, for example, a popular army-surplus store, lists MREs as one of its current best sellers. My Patriot Supply, a well-known prepper site that proclaims “It's Not Just Food, It's Freedom,” is advertising a 30-day food supply package stacked with flour products called the “Ready Hour,” but has sold out of its emergency crates of food and survival tools.
For its part, KommandoStore offers mass bundles for preppers looking to stockpile up to 500 days worth of wheat flour for multiple people.
"While many people already have 3 or 6 months of emergency food on hand," the site's sales pitch reads, "many many households have been caught off guard by recent events---and many people are scrambling to play catch up." It goes on to suggest over 13 uses for flour, including pound cake, gougere, and pasta.
Recent posts online within the doomsday prepper community suggest deep concerns about what they're eating in these times of coronavirus pandemic—and lots of people who could use a good pound cake. Some, it seems, may just have misjudged just how many supplies they needed to feed themselves in their personal stockpiles.
In a post on a prepper subreddit, one user lamented how fast their supplies were already dwindling.
“Is anyone else shocked by how quickly their prep supplies go when they actually use them? It’s actually quite alarming,” wrote user best_damn_milkshake. “What I thought was a three month supply of beef/chicken/pork and canned veggies and fruit is turning out to be about a month and a half. It’s making me realize if this lockdown situation gets much worse we’re totally and completely fucked.”
It’s unsurprising, of course, that worries run rampant on a subreddit dedicated to a community based around worrying about a future event. The struggle, though, is real.
“I guess prepping was more of a fun hobby to keep my time occupied, but now that it may be a trait that is useful I feel like a novice,” wrote another user who had to go to the store because they forgot to stock up on pet food and cans.
While preparing to have the essentials during a time like this is prudent, some preppers exude an almost overwhelming aurora of smugness. Many have used online forums to express their glee about how well they’re handling the pandemic and ridicule those who used to mock them. One long-time user actually bailed on the community because it became “too full of smug and down-talk.”
However, even among these (more or less) diligent preppers, there are those who still fear for what the future holds. In one discussion, entitled “I thought I’d prepped and now I realize just how bad I prepped and I can’t wait for this shit to end and go back to school and work. No, seriously,” a poster said he “can’t enjoy the smug feeling” as he's “not as prepared as I thought I was.”
“While I am more prepared than most people, I’m also screwed in more aspects than I thought I’d be,” they wrote. “I need to get my degree to actually start prepping for an emergency. I need to get my firearms license finished. I need to get my driver's license and get my vehicle. I need to buy my own property (after my degree) and I need to get my head out of my ass and watch less post-apocalyptic/the system goes to shit movies.”
One of the main complaints that appear on the subreddit has to do with how the preppers have planned for everything except for the economic repercussions that come with a shit-hits-the-fan scenario.
“So I am a hobby prepper, planned out 90 days of quality food and another 60 days of crapola, and enough protection to outlast my odds of living through trying,” wrote one user. “However, I have failed in one critical area. Work.
“Hot air balloon ride companies are the ultimate non-essential.”