by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer
For grocers in New Jersey, the early craze of COVID-19 has “settled down tremendously,” said Linda Doherty, president and CEO of the New Jersey Food Council.
“You no longer see people hoarding products or certain food items and toiletries, and so that makes a big difference as the supply chain catches up to itself.”
Still, the food council has been working diligently to serve its members during the ongoing pandemic, especially as the holiday season approaches. Plus, colder weather equals less large, outdoor functions that are COVID-friendly.
“In New Jersey, we still only have a 25 percent indoor capacity for restaurants and a lot of limitations on public gatherings,” Doherty said. “As you look toward the fall holidays going into the winter holidays…that’s a busy time of year already in a supermarket…but because you’ll still have a lot of restrictions for indoor dining, you’ll see greater demand on the food retail industry again.
“Something I’m working on right now…we’ve put together some Halloween guidelines for the public. And now we’re also putting together some holiday shopping guidelines.”
Nonetheless, Doherty commends New Jersey’s retailers for the strong programs they already have in place for maintaining social distancing and keeping shoppers and employees alike safe.
“Our members have done just a tremendous job in such a short period of time that they’re prepared for the next wave of business,” she said. “They’re also appropriately ordering products for the holidays…they’ll be ready for the customers who are coming to shop for their holiday goods and their family favorites.”
And while the grocers have been doing their part to keep local communities fed, the NJFC has been advocating for its members in this “COVID world,” Doherty said. A recent accomplishment for the association is a single-use bag ban bill, leaving Doherty “happily exhausted.”
“This bag bill – it’s not only monumental for New Jersey, but it’s the most progressive bag ban in the country,” she said. “We are the first state to ban single use plastic and paper bags. No other state has done this.
“One of the reasons why we pushed for this is because, right now in New Jersey, we have about 110 independent local ordinances that are all conflicting. It’s just such a patchwork of different bag ordinances that we needed one uniform standard for our members.
“And the cost of paper bags is going up, so this will be a significant savings in New Jersey for our members.”
To read about Pennington Quality Market, an independent grocery store in New Jersey, click here.