by Greg Ferrara / President and CEO, National Grocers Association
The pandemic did more than just make us all aware of how viruses can be transmitted and how our personal behaviors can help reduce the spread of illnesses. It caused many folks to be more aware of their overall health and wellness. They also learned about becoming healthier, which can increase resistance to COVID-19.
Of course, food and nutrition are key components of health and wellness, and grocers play a huge role in helping people make better choices in how they feed their bodies and souls.
From the fresh perimeter to center store to the in-store pharmacy, grocers have an opportunity to lead the way in wellness and help their communities eat and live healthier. This is all the more crucial during a winter beset by the coronavirus, in addition to seasonal colds and flu.
For example, many NGA member retailers participate in nutrition incentive programs to boost consumption of fresh produce.
One of the most recent grocers to sign on to this ongoing program is Hitchcock’s Markets in Florida, where the Fresh Access Bucks program has partnered with farmers markets in the state since 2013.
The partnership gives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program customers a discount on fruits and vegetables through nutrition incentives with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
NGA continues to work with lawmakers to expand nutrition programs that are a win-win for independent grocers and the communities they serve.
Through NGA’s efforts, the recent COVID-19 relief package included additional funding to help independent grocers enroll in the SNAP online purchasing program. It also included an additional $75 million to bolster the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, a private-public partnership for retail SNAP fruit and vegetable incentive projects.
Among the more homegrown wellness initiatives, Southern California-based Gelson’s offers extensive nutritional resources on its website. These include dietitian-inspired recipes, guidelines for eating based on specific health needs and even a recent chance to win a Peloton exercise bike.
Big Y in Massachusetts features its Living Well Eating Smart nutrition program, through which its team of registered dietitians helps shoppers who have specific health concerns.
Pennsylvania-based Redner’s publishes the HealthCents magazine and blog, with opportunities to pose questions to the program’s dietitian coordinator. And Dorothy Lane Market in Ohio shares news, tips and events via the Healthy Living Department on its website.
These are just a few of the many wellness-focused initiatives that independent community grocers have been spearheading for some time. Of course, nearly a year ago, grocers and the communities they serve met one of the greatest challenges, one that put everyone’s wellness in simultaneous peril.
That’s why independent grocers who operate pharmacies have stepped up to help deliver the coronavirus vaccine to millions of people across the country.
And it’s why NGA was among many groups across the food industry to make sure grocery workers are given priority access to the vaccine after so many months of working in harm’s way.
Our “supermarket superheroes” have delivered. Independent grocers, wholesalers, service companies and their employees continue to toil on the front lines. They keep shelves stocked, ensure access to life-sustaining products and provide steady leadership during a time of great uncertainty.
NGA is pleased the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed with us – as part of a coalition of two dozen food industry associations – to prioritize essential workers within the food, agriculture, consumer goods, retail and foodservice sectors for the COVID-19 vaccination.
The future is brighter, but we’re not out of the woods. As part of a commitment to overall health and wellness, independent community grocers should keep offering guidance on healthy eating while maintaining enhanced sanitizing and social distancing practices.
They also should communicate with employees and consumers about pandemic procedures and the shelf status of high-demand products, as well as stay connected with NGA to keep up with trends and issues that will impact how we do business