It's been a strange and often frightening couple of months here in the U.S. and around the world. While experts make predictions about the pandemic's reach in our nation and our individual communities, and governments grapple with the extent of the restrictions that should be enforced in our daily lives, very few things from the life we used to know remain constant. One of the biggest constants? People still have to eat. And in a world where sit down meals in restaurants have become a distant memory, the full burden of feeding our families and communities has come down to one primary source: grocery stores and the dedicated teams who operate them.
"While so much of the world has transitioned so we can continue to do our jobs from the safety of our homes, grocery store workers are out there on the front line, working incredibly long hours and putting themselves and their families at risk to feed the rest of us," IGA CEO John Ross says. "If there's one silver lining here, it's that so many people are finally recognizing what we in the industry have known all along—that grocery teams are the quiet heroes of the community."
Today we are highlighting a small sample of the thousands of IGA Supermarket Superheroes going above and beyond to help shoppers, teammates, and their communities during this unprecedented time of need.
Free Lunches for Kids
Granite Falls IGA in Granite Falls, Washington launched their Lunch Relief Program in mid-March, providing $1 lunches for children 18 and under. The program accepts monetary donations to help fund this initiative designed to alleviate the burden on families whose kids rely on school meals during the week.
McKim’s IGA in Mount Vernon, Indiana started handing out free lunches for children after the local schools closed due to COVID-19. Deli Manager Matthew Williams told the Evansville Courier & Press, “We've seen on Facebook that kids were out of school, and one of the first things you would see is how are they going to get lunches?"
The store’s employees quickly offered to make the lunches themselves, and now they are distributing between 30 and 40 lunches a day. McKim’s program even received verbal recognition from Governor Holcomb in a press conference as he praised Hoosiers helping during the crisis.
Donations to Shoppers-in-Need
Community Foods Market in Oakland, California is mobilizing emergency initiatives that provide safe and reliable access to affordable, fresh, and nutritious food for vulnerable neighbors. They have been raising funds for this program, which allows them to offer 50 percent off all grocery bills for CalFresh and SNAP recipients who use EBT cards to pay. The offer is currently running until April 30, but the store plans to extend it if they receive additional funding, which they are encouraging through a GoFundMe fundraiser.
Kenny’s IGA Seafood Grocery in Lincoln City, Oregon is helping local service workers who are out of work due to forced business closures. For each $50 IGA gift card sold, they are donating a $10 gift card to these service workers. To make it easier for shoppers to support this effort, they are selling gift cards in store and through their email address (payment via PayPal).
Foods Etc. IGA in Clearlake, California is donating bread every day to their local senior center’s Meals on Wheels program, and is also sending 2,000 bags of food out a week to help the local school district feed students while schools are closed.
Dissmore’s IGA in Pullman, Washington started offering free grocery delivery with a $25 minimum purchase in mid-March to help keep shoppers safe. They also are offering free in-store pickup on online orders, ensuring customers that the prices online and in-store are the same.
Local Partnerships Benefit Stores & Producers
Many IGA retailers have been filling in any supply chain holes with produce, meat, flowers, and more from local growers and farms. Not only does this tactic help the IGA retailer keep shelves stocked and give shoppers great product options, it also benefits the producers who may need to offload extra product that was originally intended for now-closed restaurants or cancelled events.
For example, Kishman’s IGA in Minerva, Ohio is helping their local flower shop by selling potted plants in-store after the shop was hit with Easter event cancellations.
Kimberly Brackett of Brackett's Market IGA in Bath, Maine, has had a long relationship with local growers and producers. She has been buying produce from farmers who had planned to supply the local restaurants that are temporarily closed, and even bought a half cow from a farm to offer customers truly local Maine beef.
Communities Step Up
Just as IGA retailers have always served their communities, those community members are also stepping up to help their fellow citizens and their IGA family during this crisis.
This woman’s post went viral on social media after she shared a story of kindness from fellow shoppers and Elgin IGA staff in Elgin, South Carolina. After her credit card was declined at check-out, she told the cashier she was going to put nearly $160 worth of groceries back. Her fellow shoppers behind her in line wouldn't let her, quickly pulling out cash and giving it to her. The store's customer service manager also chipped in, and the shopper left the store with all of her groceries paid in full, thanks to the kindness of customers and staff.
Lake Region IGA in Hawley, Pennsylvania has been working non-stop to deliver groceries to a large percentage of their customers, but was having trouble keeping up with the demand. So the Hawley Borough Police stepped in to help the store deliver groceries to the community members who needed it most.
Many people came out to Mackinaw IGA in Mackinaw, Illinois in early March when grocery stores were at their busiest (and supplies were limited) to help with snow shoveling, restocking, and even emergency produce runs so the store could continue serving their community.
We're proud of the tireless work IGA retailers and their teams have been doing for over a month now in the face of this global pandemic, and we're especially impressed with their Hometown Proud dedication to lifting their communities' spirits. Keep the good deeds coming—share your stories with us here and tag those efforts on social media with #SupermarketSuperheroes—the hashtag created by our friends at NGA to highlight dedicated independent grocers all across the country. These are just a few examples and we can't wait to share more with you!