All Your Favorite Foods Are Stuck in Transit

Small businesses relying on imported foods face new challenges amid rapidly changing pandemic restrictions and a postal service implosion

Naomi Tomky
Heated
Published in
6 min readSep 28, 2020

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A crane lifting a shipping container next to a tall stack of other containers in a shipping yard.
Photo: Sasin Tipchai/500px/Getty Images

The key to recreating the beloved street food of Ghana at BlackStar Kebab, a 5-year-old Seattle food truck, is a complex blend of 11 spices and groundnuts that owner Priestwick Sackeyfio has shipped from Ghana every few months. He can’t find many of the spices in Seattle and takes pride in supporting a vendor back home. But a shipment of almost $500 worth arrived in New York on June 25 and never made it out of U.S. Customs.

When the former soccer coach (full disclosure: mine, when I was a kid) checked in with Homeland Security on the status of the missing package, they said they didn’t have it, and he should check with the U.S. Postal Service — Which, of course, told him it was at customs. He arranged for a second batch, which also went missing. “I’ll pay duty — whatever it takes,” Sackeyfio said of trying to track them down. The supply he had on hand ran out and he had to close his truck. “I’m going through hell.”

Importing spices and other foods into the U.S. is complicated in the best of times, but the additional challenges from fluctuating lockdowns around the world, political changes in…

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Naomi Tomky
Heated
Writer for

Food and travel writer Naomi Tomky is the author of The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook. Follow her on Twitter @Gastrognome and on Instagram @the_gastrognome