by Cindy Sorensen/Founder, The Grocery Group
As many of you know, I live in the Minneapolis area. I have lived in the Twin Cities most of my life, except for the first 10 years of my life and for another three years later when I made a few corporate moves for career advancements. The Twin Cities is my home. My heart is broken, along with millions of others around the world, by the horrific murder of George Floyd which occurred here in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020.
In the aftermath of his death, we sat motionless as we watched on television the events which unfolded just 20 minutes from our home. One by one, buildings fell to the fires which were ignited during protests in response to his killing and the racial injustice we experience in this country. My heart broke, as I worried about the people living in the surrounding Minneapolis neighborhoods. As the news commentators announced the names of the businesses being destroyed, I recognized the names of many of the businesses and knew immediately, the neighborhood would be severely impacted for a long time. Among the destroyed buildings were four large grocery stores (Target, Cub Foods and two Aldi stores), many smaller food markets, several pharmacies, several dollar stores, all fast food restaurants, liquor stores, the post office, a major financial institution and countless other service businesses.
Due to the destruction in this area, the city bus service was suspended. This neighborhood, and those surrounding it, became food deserts overnight. I am worried how the residents of this neighborhood will be able to access food and medicine with no possible transportation out of the area to secure those needs.
However, by the next morning, the outpouring of citizens from all the surrounding Twin Cities’ communities poured into this neighborhood to help with the cleanup. Along with the cleanup efforts came the food and essential supply donations. Supermarkets around the Twin Cities set up donation sites and helped with transportation. I read the donations collected at one grocery store totaled 18 truckloads of essential food, baby supplies and pet food and care items. Many other individuals and organizations also collected money and supplies and delivered them to collection sites in this Minneapolis neighborhood.
There has been so much food donated that at this time, city officials are asking for no more donations for a few days. The donation need will continue through the end of the year. The destruction was so massive to the retailers, the earliest they expect to be able to reopen stores will be by the end of 2020. I would imagine we will see mobile or pop-up stores develop over time to serve the need for food and essential supplies and medicine.
Kudos to not only the citizens of the Twin Cities who helped in food donation efforts, but many thanks to the grocery retailers who helped to facilitate donations and transportation. The grocery retailers in the Twin Cities were already managing a very quickly changing environment due to COVID-19. They were working around the clock to make their stores safe from the virus for their shoppers and their employees; they were increasing their e-commerce capacity; and they were working through increased consumption patterns in some categories throughout their stores that resulted in many empty shelves. The unrest, uncertainty and curfews throughout the Twin Cities necessitated many grocery stores to reduce their hours or to close entirely to ensure the safety of their employees and shoppers.
I have often written about the lessons I have learned from grocers throughout my career. The last three months only validate what grocers do to provide for our communities in times of need. They are the first to respond in times of need, crisis or impending snowstorms and hurricanes. They are always on the front line; dependable, reliable and performing with perseverance to help their communities.
Sorensen’s Grocery Group has a mission to “develop leadership in purpose, people and products” with a specific emphasis on the grocery/consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. The group also develops programs to connect grocery industry professionals to colleges and universities to help attract, recruit and retain a talented workforce in a competitive employment. Reach Sorensen at [email protected]