With dining restaurants closed and a nation of hungry mouths feeding them, grocery stores, convenience stores, and dedicated workers have played a crucial role in fighting the new coronavirus known as COVID-19.
The stores have risen to the challenge and presented a set of initiatives aimed at protecting both employees and customers.
As an organization that represents thousands of food retailers across the state, we are extremely proud of the work of our members, industry partners and all food retailers.
In many grocery stores, early morning shopping hours are available for those 60 and older who have weak immune systems, thus protecting populations most vulnerable to complications from the virus.
Sneeze guards, or glass shields, have been created in many customer-facing areas including registration, customer service, pharmacy, and food service, creating a protective barrier between shoppers and employees. Store management equipped workers with face masks and hand sanitizer.
Social distance measures, such as signs and floor markers, have been developed to increase customer protection.
Shopping carts are cleared. Shops offer cleaning wipes when you enter. Management increased cleaning during the day and night.
In some cases, stores measure the temperatures of customers and employees.
Here are some specific actions that have been put into our member stores
Brown’s Super Stores, Inc. added (ShopRite) Glass shields for all withdrawals, pharmacy, customer service and food service records to reduce the risk of coughing and sneezing to protect colleagues and customers. GIANT, Weis Markets, and others have done the same.
Charley Family Shop ‘N Save has installed protective sheets on its menu, adding 12 hours a day of cleaning to the highest touch areas of its stores.
Gerrity, GIANT, Karns, McCaffrey’s Food Markets and others added early shopping hours for seniors and other people at risk of complications of COVID-19.
Meijer measures the temperatures of its employees before they start their shifts and scans questions to determine if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
Rutters installed additional disinfectant stations throughout its stores for the use of employees and customers.
Wawa requires customers and associates to keep a distance of six feet from each other within the store, which is supported by useful banners, ads and videos inside the store. The stores also added visual floor markers to support keeping a healthy distance and clear plastic shields in the exit counters.
The dedication and courage of our grocery and supermarket heroes did not pass unnoticed, as he won the praise that many local, state and federal leaders deserve. As an industry, we are extremely grateful for their hard work – restocking racks, grocery rendering, sterilizing touch screens, and much more.
In recognition of their hard work, many stores have raised wages and added rewards to their employees. Almost all groceries and convenience stores scream “help needed” from rooftops as they try to keep up with the massive increase in demand while this terrible epidemic continues.
And companies give back to their communities. Altona-based Schitz offers free children’s meals in some locations. Stop & Shop, a subsidiary of Ahold, will offer 5,000 free fresh meals a day to health care workers and first responders in some of the worst affected areas of the epidemic. Giant Eagle added pickup hours for a private ramp for health care professionals. Small product delivery company goPuff has committed $ 1 million in orders to front-line healthcare workers.
We are all in this together. Grocery stores and stores continue to do their best to reduce exposure. However, some workers unfortunately contracted COVID-19 and our hearts are addressed to all those affected within and outside the industry.
The industry will continue to develop and implement ideas to mitigate the spread of the virus while continuing to serve the most basic needs of the public: sustainable, safe and healthy food.
Alex Baluga is President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Retailers Association, which represents groceries, department stores, wholesalers, toy companies and consumer goods companies packaged throughout the state