As President Donald Trump has extended stay at home guidelines until April 30 in an effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, many American small businesses will remain closed. Those businesses that are essential, including grocery stores and suppliers, are reaching out to help in any way they can.
In the Southeast, Publix is giving its small business tenants in its shopping centers a rent relief package, while the Southeast Produce Council hosted a drive-thru produce distribution event and Southern Distilling Co. is switching its focus to producing hand sanitizer. Perdue Farms announced it enacted its pandemic response protocols when one of its associates at a Perry, Georgia, facility tested positive for Covid-19.
Publix offering rent relief in Publix-owned shopping centers
Businesses operating in Publix-owned shopping centers that have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic are getting some relief from their landlord. Publix is offering a rent relief package that includes waiving rent for two months, as well as waiving payments for common area maintenance fees and taxes, regardless of the tenant’s access to other relief or assistance.
“As a company that started as a small business 90 years ago, Publix wants to help businesses renting from us survive the economic impact of these unexpected closures,” said Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous.
Publix, the largest employee-owned company in the U.S. with more than 200,000 associates, currently operates 1,243 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
SEPC reduces food waste while helping others
In an effort to help alleviate the backlog of foodservice produce inventory as well as the strain on local retailers and community members, the Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) distributed free produce on Friday, March 27, to those within the Jenkins County area in Georgia.
SEPC members packed, shipped, unloaded, re-packed and distributed more than 15,000 pounds of fresh produce via a drive-thru format in order to maintain social distancing and serve as many as possible—almost 600 families.
SEPC officials expressed their gratitude to US Foods, Nickey Gregory Co. and Shuman Farms for their donations and to Millen Baptist Church, Millen community leaders and community volunteers for their donation of time, energy and resources in order to distribute fresh produce safely and effectively.
“There is an industry estimate of at least $1 billion of perishable commodities without a dedicated destination as a result of the unanticipated closure of foodservice establishments, including restaurants, hotels, schools and universities,” said SEPC President and CEO David Sherrod. “Through the SEPC Cares initiative that the council has in place, we felt that this would be an ideal time to give back to our own community. We know that families are hurting right outside our office door, and in working with our produce partners and our local community leaders we were able to create a quick turnaround to get this product into consumers’ hands in a timely manner. Not only are we able to reduce food waste from the effects of the situation we’re in, but we are also able to extend a helping hand to people in need.”
Based in Millen, Georgia, SEPC is a member-driven, non-profit association of more than 2,500 leaders from all facets of the produce industry. It was formed more than 20 years ago to promote the value of fresh fruits and vegetables in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia through networking, innovation, community, and education.
Southern Distilling Co. implements large-scale hand sanitizer production
Statesville, North Carolina-based Southern Distilling Company, one of the nation’s largest craft distillers, has temporarily shifted its focus from alcoholic beverages to producing hand sanitizer in quantities aimed to address the current product shortage precipitated by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The state-of-the-art distillery possesses the facility and warehousing capacity to manufacture significant quantities of hand sanitizer for distribution to first responders, health care facilities, essential businesses and other agencies in need of the product at this time, focusing first on the demand within its home state of North Carolina.
With the temporary closing of local restaurants and bars, including its own tasting room, the distillery’s manufacturing shift also has created new jobs for displaced service industry workers.
The initial manufacturing run consists of hand sanitizer refills in 32-oz. HDPE bottles. Containing 80 percent alcohol and manufactured to the approved World Health Organization (WHO) hand sanitizer formula, the product is priced at a standard pre-shortage rate of $14.99 per bottle for commercial use only (not for resale).
Southern Distilling is accepting case orders online through its website store at SouthernDistilling.com and also taking inquiries by phone at 704-978-7175. Standard shipping is provided by FedEx package or freight service at the shipper’s rates.
The distillery will weigh requests for alternative packaging sizes, remaining nimble to tackle shifting needs. Bulk 55-gallon drums are available for $2,970 each, as well as 270-gallon IBC totes.
“We hope that our efforts and those of other distilleries across the country to be part of the solution to this hand sanitizer shortage will help meet the current needs of our local communities and beyond,” stated co-owner Pete Barger. “We are all in this fight together.”
Southern Distilling Co. is owned by spouses Pete and Vienna Barger.
Perdue Farms confirms positive case of Covid-19 at Georgia facility
Perdue Farms learned March 28 that an associate at its Perry, Georgia, further processing facility, who had not been to work for more than a week, tested positive for Covid-19.
“We are unable to disclose additional details around this individual in accordance with privacy laws,” the company stated in a press release.
Upon receiving this notification, Perdue Farms says it immediately enacted its pandemic response protocols, which follow strict guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including:
- Notifying and coordinating response procedures with all pertinent parties (local health officials, onsite USDA inspector, Perdue HR and wellness staff, coronavirus response leader and facility director of operations);
- Interviewing the affected associate to determine movements and contact with others;
- Checking recordings from internal cameras to see who the associate may have been in close contact with (within six feet and longer than 10 minutes);
- Thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the entire facility beyond the full sanitation that all of the company’s facilities undergo every 24 hours, and with additional sanitization conducted in areas accessed by the affected associate during the prior 14 days. These procedures strictly follow the CDC guidelines for this process; and
- Notifying associates who were potentially exposed to the affected associate and providing them with guidance for conducting a risk assessment of their potential exposure using CDC guidelines.
The affected associate is in quarantine for 14 days while still receiving pay and no attendance penalty and may return to work when approved to do so by a healthcare provider.
Perdue Farms says it is continuing the incremental preventative measures at all of its facilities that were implemented in early March to protect the health of associates, including increased sanitation and cleaning (above and beyond the full sanitization that all facilities receive every 24 hours), and extended the hours of many of the onsite Wellness Centers at facilities, which are available to all associates and their families free of charge. Additionally, the company is implementing temperature checking across all facilities and reminding associates to follow the CDC guidelines for proper hygiene.
“Our greatest concern is for the health and safety of our associates,” said Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue. “We are committed to supporting them as they remain dedicated to their roles as essential personnel during this uncharted time.”
Per the CDC, Covid-19 is not known to be a food-borne pathogen and, “because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.”
Perdue continues to regulate strict preventive safety and sanitation standards in all its facilities. All Perdue products continue to be USDA inspected.