NORTH CAROLINA — Across the country, it is becoming a familiar sight.

Empty grocery store shelves, as people stock up to self-isolate amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is something that frankly we’ve never seen before,” said Greg Ferrara, the president and CEO of the National Grocers Association. He says stores are facing an “unprecedented demand.”

With experts saying the coronavirus outbreak could last for weeks or months to come, is America’s food supply big enough?

Ferrara says to not panic: there is plenty of food. It is just a matter of getting it to the stores.

“Manufacturing plants are absolutely working at 100 percent,” he said. “There is an enormous amount of product flowing from those plants into our distribution centers.”

So what is causing the empty shelves? Experts say in large part, they are the result of so many people buying such large quantities all at once.

“What we’re seeing is people are starting to hoard,” said Robert Handfield, a professor of supply chain management at North Carolina State University.

Handfield says the empty stores are not a supply but rather a distribution and replenishment issue.

“People aren’t going to be using more paper towels or suddenly eating more rice or beans,” he said. “Some people are just buying things. It's a sheer panic.”

So, what should consumers do to ensure food is on the shelves?

Both Farrara and Handfield recommend that people only buy supplies for a week or so at a time. While many states are restricting access to restaurants and other public facilities, grocery stores so far are remaining open during the outbreak.

A side note: Ferrara notes that as shelves are restocked, the options consumers encounter may be a little different.

“You’re going to see potentially different brands, you're going to see maybe a reduction in the type of variety or flavors of certain products on the shelves, as the manufacturers hone their distribution into ensuring they can get the greatest volume out of those key products,” he said.

When it comes to visiting the grocery store, Ferrara says those who are sick or showing symptoms should stay home. By going to the store, sick individuals are putting fellow customers and employees - those stocking the shelves - in harm’s way.

Some stores offer delivery services.

Others are setting aside hours specifically for members of the population at seemingly greater risk for the virus, including senior citizens.