Grocery stores, food supply in good shape as COVID-19 spreads

single-meta-cal March 25, 2020

Like other essential personnel, grocery store employees are among the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workers, facing record demand for goods and services, are risking their health and safety to get product on shelves and in customers’ carts as fast as possible.

“It’s uncharted territory – unprecedented,” said Melissa Eads, marketing and public relations manager for Kroger’s Nashville division. “We don’t have anything to compare it to. We can’t compare it to any holiday, that’s for sure.”

High demand

Kroger stores across the U.S. are extremely busy, working 24/7 to restock inventory and keep facilities clean to help stop the spread of coronavirus in their communities.

Eads said the recent influx of shoppers has forced everyone to rethink how they operate.

“We have such a high demand on the system across the whole nation right now, that it’s very hard to keep up,” she said. “Toilet paper makers can’t make toilet paper fast enough.”

The same holds true for Publix, which delivered nearly 12,000 truckloads to stores last week. Cleanliness is also a top priority, as each Publix has a designated team of associates dedicated to sanitizing baskets, cart handles, register pin pads and other items after each use.

Nicole Krauss, media and community relations manager for the Florida grocery chain, said they’ve imposed limits on high-demand items, such as hand sanitizer and facial tissue.

“Also, we’re asking customers not to arrive early, waiting in lines for stores to open,” she said. “Since deliveries are made throughout the day, arriving first thing doesn’t guarantee product availability.”

Food shortage?

Despite concerns of a future food shortage, Alabama Grocers Association President Ellie Taylor said the system is in good shape and customers shouldn’t worry.

“There is no shortage of food product,” she said. “Empty shelves are the result of increased demand from consumers, not a lack of inventory.”

Taylor said truckers are always in short supply, but grocers are doing everything they can to ensure deliveries are made. They’re also turning to non-traditional wholesalers to acquire goods faster, she added.

Customers can do their part by not hoarding nonperishable groceries and supplies. Instead, only shop for what you need now. This allows grocers to catch up and ensures others – particularly low-income and elderly residents – don’t go without essential items.

While it may be instinct to stockpile during a national emergency, Eads said it’s simply unnecessary and putting a strain on the system.

“We are asking that customers shop responsibly,” she said. “If they don’t need it for that week, leave it for the next person who might because we will continue to restock.”

Other measures

In addition to social distancing and enhanced sanitation, Whole Foods has temporarily halted its self-service areas, including hot, salad and antipasti bars. Seated in-store venues offer takeout only and all indoor and outdoor café seating is unavailable.

Whole Foods, Kroger, Publix, ALDI, Target and a slew of other companies are also offering special shopping hours for vulnerable populations, including the elderly, pregnant and immunocompromised. Customers should check with their preferred retailer for information on hours and who is eligible to participate.

To meet increased demand and help those impacted by COVID-19 related layoffs and closures, many retailers have ramped up their hiring efforts. Job seekers can find thousands of openings at supermarkets across the country.

Federal and state health officials recommend avoiding public places to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. When you must go grocery shopping, try to follow these simple steps:

  1. Make a shopping list. By doing this, you limit how much time you spend in the store and cut down on unnecessary purchases.
  2. Wipe your cart or basket down. Use the provided disinfectant wipes or bring your own sanitizer to clean the handrail of your shopping cart or basket.
  3. Don’t overbuy. Help your neighbor by only getting what you need.
  4. Consider digital payment. Use your smart phone to make purchases digitally and reduce physical touch.
  5. Be nice. Grocery store clerks and crew are working around the clock to ensure you have what you need during the pandemic. Take a moment and thank them for their service.

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