St. Paul, MN – The COVID-19 pandemic has already illustrated something that food co-ops have long known to be true—grocery stores are pillars of our communities—and grocery store employees are the ones who bring community care and leadership to life.
“The individuals who stock our shelves and bins, manage the check-outs, assist you in the aisles, clean the stores—all are on the frontlines, supporting our nation through this crisis,” said C.E. Pugh, CEO of National Co+op Grocers, the business services cooperative for 147 retail food co-ops operating in 200 storefronts in 38 states nationwide. “As they face unprecedented demand, they are rising to the occasion of service in inspiring ways—and they are doing this even as they adjust to the rapidly changing dynamics of their own families and lives.”
“Food co-ops are owned by their communities—they put people first every day,” Pugh adds. “The current crisis underscores how deeply rooted co-ops are and how much shoppers trust and rely on them. Co-ops are rising to the challenge and honored to be of service today and every day.”
With grocery store traffic reaching and maintaining near all-time highs, NCG offers these recommendations that will allow food co-op staff to serve shoppers best.
- Honor new store policies
Many food co-ops are reserving an hour or two of the shopping day for those who are at high risk of complications from contracting COVID-19. This includes senior citizens, those with heart or lung disease or other forms of compromised immunity. Shoppers who are not in a high-risk group for COVID-19 have an opportunity to unite with their food co-op in this effort to protect our most vulnerable community members by avoiding shopping during this time.
Some co-ops are assisting their shoppers in maintaining appropriate social distances by installing shields to protect cashiers or marking safe distances on the floor near registers, while others have chosen to package bulk foods for convenience and customer protection.
And, many localities as well as co-ops are asking customers to leave their reusable containers and bags at home for their protection as the protection of store staff and other shoppers.
Shoppers are encouraged to check food co-ops’ websites, social media pages and notes at entrances to familiarize themselves with these and other policies.
- Buy just what you need
National food producers and distributors assure the public that there are no projected food shortages. Shoppers should buy just what they need for one to two weeks. Limiting shopping trips to once per week is recommended as a best practice for social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensures more people can get what they need.
- Practice social distancing and other CDC recommendations
While grocery stores are essential services and hubs for community supplies, you should still follow the same virus-mitigation practices you do in other locations – as recommended by the CDC. Send one person to shop for your household. Allow six feet of space between yourself and fellow customers and employees, wash your hands before entering, and stay home if you have a fever and/or are not feeling well.
- Shop local
Food co-ops are proud to offer the best selection of locally grown and produced foods available. Supporting your local economy during this challenging time is more important than ever and keeps more money circulating in your community—bonus—local food is delicious!
- Remember, we’re in this together
As we all face new and challenging levels of stress, it is more important than ever to remember that we are stronger when we work together than when we divide ourselves out of fear. Kindness matters. Co-op staff, now more than ever, appreciate a shared smile and thank you—cooperation and caring for each other will keep our communities strong and see us through.
National Co+op Grocers (NCG), founded in 1999, is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCG helps unify food co-ops in order to optimize operational and marketing resources, strengthen purchasing power and ultimately offer more value to natural food co-op owners and shoppers everywhere. Our 147 member and associate co-ops operate more than 200 storefronts in 38 states with combined annual sales of nearly $2.1 billion. NCG is a winner of the dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence and a certified B Corp. Find a map of NCG member and associate co-ops. To learn more about co-ops, visit www.welcometothetable.coop.
Media inquiries may be directed to Eric Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org; 612-424-7545).