The Northeastern grocery sector continues to coalesce around efforts to support employees and customers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Following is a look at some of the latest news.
Massachusetts DPH isues order on grocery stores, pharmacies
The Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health released an order on Wednesday affecting grocery stores and pharmacies, effective immediately. Requirements include:
- Grocery stores and pharmacies must provide alternative hours at least one hour every day for adults 60 years and older in order to limit their potential exposure. These hours must be conspicuously posted and should be enforced by grocery stores and pharmacies.
- Grocery stores and pharmacies must deploy strategies to reduce COVID-19 exposure for their customers and employees including but not limited to:
- Access to handwashing facilities, including those available in public restrooms, and allowing employees sufficient break time to wash hands, as necessary.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, as available.
- Disinfecting wipes, as available, at point of entrance for customers to disinfect carts, at cash registers and/or other appropriate locations.
- Procedures to ensure that both employees and customers remain at least six feet apart at all times. Procedures should include a marked “Social Distancing Line,” which begins six feet away from all checkout counters.
- Closure of any salad bar or other self-serve prepared or other open food stations.
- Elimination of any open free samples or tastings.
- Procedures to sanitize frequent touch points throughout the day, including point of sale terminals at registers.
- Employees who are sick should not report to work and if, when reporting to work, they have symptoms of COVID-19 they must be sent home.
- Grocery stores and pharmacies must accommodate employees who fall within the higher-risk populations, as defined by the CDC guidelines, with lower-exposure work assignments or allowing them to stay home.(MFA comment: already required under Food Code.)
- Grocery stores shall be closed to the public for a sufficient time each evening to allow for stores to be properly sanitized and restocked.
- Grocery store and pharmacy employees shall not perform bagging of retail products if reusable checkout bags are used and customers at grocery stores and pharmacies shall not use reusable checkout bags until further notice.
- Grocery stores and pharmacies, food banks and emergency food programs, including those currently subject to municipal ordinances or regulations banning single-use plastic bags, may choose to use recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags or single-use plastic bags.
- Grocery stores and pharmacies may not assess a charge for recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags or single-use plastic bags.
Giant Food donates money, hams to support food banks
Landover, Maryland-based Giant Food, a greater Washington D.C. regional grocery chain, donated $550,000 and 1,200 hams to the five Feeding America food banks within its region: Capital Area Food Bank, Maryland Food Bank, Food Bank of Delaware, Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank and Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. The food and monetary donations will help provide meals to families who are food insecure and have been especially impacted by the pandemic.
“During this unprecedented time, we recognize that our food bank partners have an increased demand for food and supplies to serve those facing unexpected hardships,” said Ira Kress, Interim president of Giant. “It’s important for us to be a good neighbor and do whatever we can to help our partners fight hunger and provide vital services to our communities right now.”
Giant’s five food bank partners will use the monetary donations to purchase food and various supplies to serve children while schools are closed, the elderly and health compromised individuals, and families or individuals that continuously face hunger issues in Giant’s footprint. Giant will continue to assess ways to offer support to its community partners throughout the coming weeks.
Additionally, Giant is offering its customers an opportunity to get involved and help support their neighbors that may be dealing with food insecurity during the pandemic. Beginning Friday, March 27, members of Giant’s Flexible Rewards Program will be able to designate the value of their Flexible Points for dollar donations to Giant’s five Feeding America food bank partners. One hundred percent of the donations will go to those in financial need of groceries.
Participation is easy for members of Giant’s Flexible Rewards program. Members should log into their rewards account at Giantfood.com or through the Giant app, and view the redeemable offers available. They will see options for three different redemptions: 100 points for a $1 donation, 500 points for $5, and 1,000 points for $10. Members will be able to make additional donations as desired throughout the offering of this program. Giant will be distributing the donated funds weekly to the participating Feeding America food banks to ensure the benefit is available to those in need as quickly as possible
Verc Enterprises issues bonuses, pay raises during Covid-19 pandemic
Duxbury, Massachusetts-based Verc Enterprises, a convenience store and gasoline operator with more than 30 locations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire, is helping its nearly 400 employees weather the uncertainty of the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus outbreak with a combination of bonuses and pay increases.
On March 16, the company presented all fulltime employees with bonus checks of $500, and its part-time employees each received $200. Then, on Monday, March 23, the company increased the pay of each of its store employees by $2 per hour, while increasing the salaries of each store manager by $100 per week.
“Our employees, or associates as they are known within our organization, are our most valued asset,” says Leo Vercollone, CEO of Verc Enterprises. “This is a time when we want to show them how much we appreciate everything they do.”
Vercollone said that his locations are all open.
“Our traffic is steady, but it has slowed down a little more each day. We’re in an industry that is definitely in demand. Gas stations and the convenience stores are vital services at this time, especially with so many businesses closed. Customers depend on us, and we will be here to serve their needs. In fact, we are looking to hire additional associates, so we’re doing everything we can to make Verc Enterprises a preferred choice for the job seekers.”
Vercollone said that some of the company’s support staff has been working from home during this time. “But our front line associates cannot do that. They are there in the stores, so we are doing what we can to reward, support, and thank them.”
Within the individual Verc locations, there have been “six foot” designations so that customers will know the distance to stay apart from each other.
“We tell our associates that if any of them feel uncomfortable working in the stores during this time, we will do what we can to support them,” he says. “We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable in the workplace. Our locations are sparkling clean, for the safety of our customers and our associates. Our shelves are well-stocked. We want to make the shopping experience of everyone who comes through our doors a pleasant one.”
Unilever launches ‘United For America’ initiative
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey-based Unilever United States unveiled its ‘United for America’ initiative, a wide-ranging set of measures to support the American people during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The company’s actions in the U.S. are part of Unilever’s global effort to help protect the lives and livelihoods of the communities it supports, including its consumers, its customers and suppliers, and workforce, with worldwide contributions of more than €100 million (approximately $108 million) to continue helping people affected around the world.
The United for America initiative will include an immediate product donation and will lead to a national Day of Service on May 21, when Unilever United States will dedicate its workforce to the community and donate all the products manufactured at its factories that day or products of equal value to those impacted by COVID-19.
Unilever United States is contributing more than $8 million to help those impacted by the pandemic through donations of its food, soap, personal hygiene, and home cleaning products. Unilever will partner with Feeding America to support a national network of foodbanks to distribute these products to Americans in need.
The donated products include: personal care and hygiene products from Dove, Suave, Degree, TRESemmé, Shea Moisture, and Axe; home cleaning and sanitization products from Seventh Generation; and food products from Knorr, Hellmann’s/Best Foods, and Lipton. Additionally, Unilever is donating more than 200,000 masks to local hospitals in New Jersey to help protect the lives of health care professionals.
In addition to its current donations, Unilever United States is organizing a national Day of Service on May 21 to provide an estimated $12 million of support for Americans in need.
Every essential item produced by Unilever employees at its network of 14 U.S. factories that day or products of equal value will be donated and delivered to its community partners to provide to those most in need. Unilever employees across the country will be invited to dedicate this day to volunteer opportunities that provide hygiene products, food, services, and hope to those impacted by the crisis.
Additionally, Unilever will devote its entire marketing and advertising spend that day to support the Day of Service by promoting non-profit partners, relief organizations, and other community groups that will distribute products to those most in need.
Over the next eight weeks, Unilever will mobilize its network by asking its partners – including retailers, technology companies, delivery enterprises, packaging suppliers, and media companies – to join in this initiative and demonstration of hope.
Unilever will offer €500 million (approximately $540 million) of cash flow relief worldwide to support livelihoods across its extended value chain through: early payment for its most vulnerable small and medium sized suppliers, to help them with financial liquidity; and extending credit to selected small-scale retail customers whose business relies on Unilever, to help them manage and protect jobs.
Unilever will protect its global workforce from sudden drops in pay, as a result of market disruption or being unable to perform their role, for up to three months. This will cover all employees, contractors and others who we manage or who work on Unilever’s sites, on a full- or part-time basis. This will apply to workers not already covered by government plans or by their direct employer.
C&S Wholesale Grocers partners with PFG to keep stores stocked
Keene, New Hampshire-based C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., the largest wholesale grocery supply company in the U.S., is partnering with Performance Food Group Co. (PFG) to keep grocery stores stocked and our communities fed while the country battles the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. This partnership will enable C&S to leverage PFG’s workforce to help handle the extensive increases in food and product needs in local communities around the country.
“Our communities have always been at the heart of our business,” said Mike Duffy, CEO C&S Wholesale Grocers. “In partnering with Performance Food Group, we are in a better position to fulfill our commitment to ensuring grocery stores shelves are stocked and families around the country have access to food and other necessities during these unsettling and unpredictable times.”
“We are excited to partner with C&S Wholesale Grocers during this critical time for our country’s food supply chain,” said George Holm, PFG Chairman, President & CEO. “Our talented associates have valuable expertise in food distribution and we are proud that they will continue to play a vital role in keeping families fed. This is one of the many ways that PFG can utilize our people and assets to support our local communities as we all weather this period of disruption.”
This partnership is effective immediately with 35 PFG employees across two states starting this week. Over the coming days and weeks, more employees will be joining C&S in the fight to feed America.