Grocery Stores Giving Back during the Pandemic

May 7, 2020

As one of the few essential businesses still open during this pandemic, grocery stores are taking strides to prepare for what is happening as a result of COVID-19 and more solemnly, what is still yet to come. Between upping sanitation frequency and overhauling store hours, employee benefits, and supply chain operations, these retailers are trying to keep up and adjust to the changing food landscape. 

And while we applaud all the grocery workers right now (and their employers who are actively looking out for their well-being!), there are several grocery stores who are stepping up to the plate and using their resources to do real good not only for their customers, but across communities. 

From committing resources to hunger relief organizations (i.e. Feeding America, Meals on Wheels, United Way, etc.) and local food banks to being among the first to begin offering free drive-thru COVID-19 testing, here are some of the coolest initiatives:

1. Reducing Food Waste

As people are quarantined at home and not going to schools, restaurants, or hotels, farmers are seeing significant amounts of produce and dairy not being sold and as a result, being discarded into mountains of food waste that seem dystopian when contrasted to pictures of empty grocery shelves that spread across social media like wildfire when shelter-in-place orders were first issued. 
In response, Publix, a grocery chain headquartered in Florida, has committed to not only purchasing extra produce and dairy from local farmers but to donate all the food directly to Feeding America, a non-profit focused on hunger relief. Within the first week, Publix has already bought more than 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk, with the initiative running for the next couple of weeks.

2. Taking Care of our Most Vulnerable Populations 

According to the CDC, older adults and those with underlying medical conditions are advised to stay home which creates a challenge for those needing to buy their weekly groceries. 

While several grocery stores have implemented “senior only” shopping hours in which the store is open only to senior citizens, Texas based-H-E-B and Midwestern Hy-Vee are two retailers who are taking it one step further. Both retailers have partnered with food delivery services (Favor and DoorDash, respectively) to offer free grocery deliveries to senior citizens. 

Along a similar line, Wal-Mart has entered into an innovative partnership with Nextdoor, a networking app consisting of your neighbors. Under this “Neighbors Helping Neighbor” program, Nextdoor members are able to coordinate and help pick up groceries for their more vulnerable neighbors while instilling a bit of neighborly friendliness into the community. 

Favor is currently asking for donations to support the Senior Support Fund, a fund used to help keep delivery fees waived. Donate here.

Alternatively, Lidl is committed to ensuring its senior customers are getting their groceries by doing the delivery themselves. The German supermarket chain has designated its food truck from handing out samples to delivering food to various retirement homes in Hampton Roads.

3. Advocating on behalf of Grocery Workers 

Given their exposure to different people day in and day out, grocery workers have a higher than average risk of contracting COVID-19. As a response, several large retailers such as Albertson’s, Kroger, and Stop & Shop are joining together with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) to persuade federal lawmakers and legislators to classify grocery workers as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel”. 

Under this new designation, the initiative is intended to ensure benefits to grocery workers such as testing priority, availability of personal protection equipment (PPE), and emergency childcare. 

As grocery stores continue to work to protect both their employees and customers, it is undeniable that the impacts of COVID-19 will be felt strongly for the forseeable future. In the meanwhile, limit trips to the store, adhere to social distancing, and support grocers who prioritize people beyond the bottom line. 

Bianca Hsieh

With a background in law, business, and international affairs, Bianca is motivated to not only explore each of these fields separately, but identify the intersectionality as well. She enjoys interacting with people from different backgrounds, developing a global mindset. Outside of work, Bianca focuses on traveling, cooking, and learning new things, like languages.

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