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Photos of empty supermarket shelves are being pushed in false contexts

Two social media posts featuring photos of empty supermarket shelves are going viral with claims that President Joe Biden’s policies are responsible for food shortages. But these posts are using photos in false contexts. Let’s take a look at the facts.

Two social media posts — one from Facebook and one from Twitter — with photos of supermarket shelves. The Facebook post has two photos, one showing shelves full of food with the words, “Trumps [sic] America”, and one showing mostly empty shelves with the words, “Bidens [sic] America”. The tweet contains a photo of empty shelves and reads “A look at #BuildBackBetter.” The News Literacy Project added a “FALSE CONTEXT” label as well as labels that identify where these images actually originated. All are from different locations or dates than those suggested by the social posts.
The photos of supermarket shelves in these social media posts do not show evidence of a recent food shortage.
The photo of full shelves in the meme above was taken in Australia more than four years before President Donald Trump’s administration began.
The photo of empty shelves in the meme was taken at a store in South Carolina in 2018.
The photo of empty shelves in the tweet was taken in Worcester, England, and has been online since at least March 2020.

NewsLit takeaway

The idea of food shortages sparks a strong emotional response, and viral rumors presenting photos of empty store shelves are common during disasters and other events that cause disruptions in the supply chain or prompt consumer panic buying. Be wary of such photos and seek out trusted, standards-based news sources for accurate coverage of supply chain issues.

NLP’s viral rumor rundown is a regular feature in The Sift, its weekly email newsletter for educators, and in Get Smart About News, its weekly email newsletter for the general public. You can subscribe to these newsletters here. Send suggestions, questions or feedback on this rumor or on the viral rumor rundown blog to thesift@newslit.org.