Answering your Questions About COVID-19 and the Co-op

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Answering your Questions About COVID-19 and the Co-op

PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO READ A LETTER FROM OUR GENERAL MANAGER ABOUT THE CO-OP AND COVID-19

Our members are rightly concerned about the Novel Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, and have asked how the virus is affecting the Co-op. Here is a list of actions we are taking so far.  We will update this list as the situation changes:

  • As of May 14, we are reminding shoppers to please shop alone and limit shopping trips whenever possible.
  • Starting April 19, all Co-op Staff, per Vermont order, will wear masks in the store.
  • Starting on April 1st, we ask that all staff and shoppers wear gloves in the store.
  • Since March 1st, we have been matching all “round-ups” at the register for local food shelves, CVOEO and HOPE
  • On Saturday, 3/28, we installed protective plexiglass shields at our registers.
  • Starting Monday, 3/30, we will offer Temporary Emergency Online Ordering and Curbside Pickup from a limited menu for our most vulnerable shoppers.  If you need help with shopping or food delivery, please reach out to HOPE.
  • Effective 5 pm on Wednesday, 3/25, the Governor has restricted face to face contact in places of business.  This does NOT apply to the Co-op, as grocery stores are deemed “essential businesses”.
  • Effective Wednesday, 3/25, all shoppers are asked to wear a pair of complementary disposable gloves before entering the store.
  • Effective Wednesday, 3/25, all shoppers are asked NOT to bring their own containers or bags of any kind.
  • As of Sunday, 3/22, we are exploring limited options for curbside pickup for our most vulnerable shoppers.  Updates here.
  • Starting Friday, 3/20, we will reserve the first hour of business (9 am to 10 am) for seniors and vulnerable shoppers.
  • Starting Thursday, 3/19, all Co-op staff will wear disposable gloves while working in the store.
  • Starting Wednesday, 3/18, we will be opening at 9 am, to allow our staff more time to clean and prepare the store for the health of our shoppers.
  • Starting 3/16/20, our seating area will be closed.
  • We are increasing our sanitation practices throughout the store.
  • We are suspending our member worker program for the time being.
  • We are closing the hot bar and salad bar for the time being.  Packaged salad and hot food offerings have been added in their stead.
  • We are putting all non-essential projects on hold.
  • We are canceling all non-essential in-person meetings for the next 30 days (this includes department meetings, all workshops, off-site training, shift leader meetings, assistant manager meetings, management meetings, etc.
  • We are asking all staff who travel outside Vermont to be sure to read guidelines from the CDC and to check in with our Human Resources department before returning to work.  

About the Virus

For complete information, visit these excellent and frequently updated pages from our friends at UVM Medical Center and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

About the Co-op’s Response

We have many procedures already in place to help protect the safety of our employees, members, and shoppers—procedures we rely on to reduce the spread of foodborne illness and seasonal colds and flu every year. Learn more below.

The Virus and Food

According to the Harvard Health Blog, it’s not clear if the virus can spread through food. Even if so, it would be highly unlikely. Regardless, health officials cannot absolutely rule out the possibility of transmission from infected food handlers.

Food Safety at the Co-op

The Co-op’s food-safety program is the among best in the business.

Our employees must follow a strict set of standard operating procedures when handling products.

Many employees are ServSafe® certified. ServSafe® is a highly regarded food-safety training program administered by the U.S. National Restaurant Association. Many Co-op employees have the same level of certification as the managers of major restaurants.

Out of care for our community, our practice has always been for staff to remain at home when they are sick. All of our full-time and part-time staff accumulate paid time off to cover sick time. 

Supplies

You may have heard stories about grocery stores running out of food and household items as consumers horde the essentials. One of our strengths is that we source from multiple suppliers and don’t pull from a central warehouse. Therefore we have multiple avenues for securing products even when there are gaps in availability. This is one of the many moments when we feel grateful to work with so many small, local producers!

Trustworthy Resources

The internet is full of misinformation, and social media channels thrive on hyperbolic language. One of the best things you can do is stay informed with accurate information. We suggest the following, recommended by Harvard Medical School:

For regular news, trust sources with deep, award-winning health reporting. We suggest:

Work with Us

Finally, we ask all of our members, shoppers, and employees to partner with us in this. No matter how many food-safety protocols we may have in place, we can’t control shoppers who might come to the store sick or handle packages with germs on their hands. WHO has great advice here on how to be responsible in order to protect yourself—and by extension your community—from the virus.

 

 

 

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  • reply V Smiley ,

    Hi Midd Coop – I’m curious if you are making plans to amend your bulk section, buffet and self serve coffee and pastries. At coffee shops, restaurants and eating establishments, all serving is being switched over from customer to employee. Is it possible for MNFC to start serving folks their coffee and grabbing those pastries for customers and/or have someone manning the bulk section switching out and sanitizing scoops And tongs continuously and/or employees simply getting rid of self serve during this time? Also, has the amount of seating in the cafe been reduced/distanced? All these steps will reduce risk and slow spread.
    Thank you for all that you are doing! And keeping us supplied and fed.

    • reply coop-admin ,

      Hi There!

      Thanks for reaching out to us about this. Yes, indeed, we are making changes every day. Our bulk section is shifting to packaged product and gravity bins, rather than scoops, as we speak. Our store managers are sanitizing surfaces and handles on a strict schedule. Our hot and salad bars will no longer be self serve, starting tomorrow. As we continue to receive recommendations from the health department, we will continue to modify how we serve our shoppers. Thank you for all of your suggestions and we will keep rolling with the changes. Have a wonderful afternoon and keep well.

    • reply Andy ,

      How about curbside pickup?

      • reply coop-admin ,

        Hi Andy! We are considering lots of options right now, and this is certainly one of them. We will keep you updated as changes happen. Thanks for reaching out to us!

      • reply Stephen Roberts ,

        Do you have hand sanitizer?

        • reply coop-admin ,

          We received a very small delivery of sanitizing wipes today, though they have sold out. We will continue trying to order sanitizer and sanitizing wipes on a daily basis and hope to have them back in stock soon. Thanks!

        • reply Spring ,

          I shopped at the coop today and I want to somehow make sure that those working there, especially, aren’t placed at too high a risk of being exposed to the virus. I think curbside pickup sounds so sane and reduces the risk of shopping with more than 10-50 persons in the coop at the same time. What could the community do to help enable such a huge change to the way things run? Already, permanent employees must or will soon feel overworked, or? Also, a coop in Iowa has instituted designated senior shopping times… I thought that was a great idea. Please let us know how we members can be of assistance. My mother, my son, and I am so grateful for healthy food at this time, but we want to help keep everyone safe.

          • reply coop-admin ,

            We are exploring options for curbside pickup and special hours for Seniors and will keep everyone updated as soon as these plans solidify. Thanks!

          • reply Stephen Worthen ,

            I just wanted to send a note of appreciation and encouragement to all the staff at the co-op. You are very much appreciated, especially during these challenging times. The work you perform is an incredible service for all of us and I wish you all to stay safe and healthy. Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!!

            • reply coop-admin ,

              Thank you, Stephen – we needed that!

            • reply Jane Lustgarten ,

              Curbside pickup would be a wonderful thing for seniors and people at risk! Will you be wiping down the handles of the shopping carts.
              Trader Joes only allows a certain number of shoppers in at a time. Is that something you would consider?

            • reply MaryAnn Peryea ,

              Friday, for us older folks, was very crowded and uncomfortable. Was not possible to keep any distance at all from people.
              When coming out of the store, I felt very uncomfortable about the crowds. No I do not know what the answer is to
              this issue.

              • reply coop-admin ,

                Hi MaryAnn!

                I hear you. We know it’s not working great – everyone seems to have put themselves into the most “vulnerable” category, and not only seniors are vulnerable, so this isn’t possible to police without violating folk’s privacy. We are working on other options, right now, and will keep you informed as they are activated. Thanks for reaching out to us!

              • reply Christina ,

                One wild idea would be to have an online order form and to create some temporary work for students or others- like restaurant workers who are unemployed now- by offering a home delivery service! There could even be five or ten suggested packages of basics depending on dietary preference (e.g. vegan, gluten free, paleo) and size of household and what is in season now.

                • reply Lisa Winkler ,

                  I want to say how much I appreciate the coop and its people (even more so than before). It’s the one place I feel almost okay about going to; you are doing an amazing job keeping things in stock, communicating clearly, obviously doing your best to keep things clean and in order, and all with a smile. Thank you so much. To my fellow customers — please observe the “wait here” signs in the check out lines until the person in front of you is completely checked out. We all need to keep the 6′ distance, and people seem to have a hard time waiting. (Looking forward to curb side pick-up.) Thanks again.

                  • reply coop-admin ,

                    Thank you!

                  • reply Allison Cutler ,

                    I very much appreciate the protective measures MNFC has taken, but need to reiterate the concern from a previous customer. As a 63 yr old, I came at 9 am on Wed 3/25 to take advantage of the “early shopping”, and also felt very uncomfortable because of how many shoppers were there. The aisles are not large enough to practice social distancing, so it turned out to be a stressful experience, not one in which I felt safer than usual. Perhaps you need to limit the # of shoppers allowed to enter the store at one time. Many thanks for you ongoing efforts to keep our community well nourished and safe.

                  • reply James ,

                    Hats off to each and every employee at the Co-Op. We are so thankful that you are keeping your shelves stocked and taking responsible steps to secure the health of customers and staff. You guys are heroes in my book. Thank you!!!!

                    • reply coop-admin ,

                      Thank you so much James – that means a lot to us!

                    • reply Bethanne ,

                      My well water is not drinkable and I rely (at the moment) on bottled water. I am also in the over 60 age bracket and don’t want to be out and about much. Are you restricting how many bottles someone can buy at a time? I prefer to limit how many times I come into a store and would prefer to buy 2 weeks worth at a time. is that okay?

                      Also – I love you guys. The Co-Op is the only place I feel at all comfortable going into right now – if one can call it comfortable.

                      • reply coop-admin ,

                        Hi Bethanne!

                        Thanks for reaching out to us. At this time, we are not placing any restrictions on the quantity of any product that a shopper wishes to purchase. All purchases are first come, first served, while supplies last. So, feel free to stock up! Have a good day and take care of yourself.

                      • reply norman salant ,

                        this is great. curbside is great. coop is great. that’s about all that’s worth saying here.

                        • reply coop-admin ,

                          Thank you – we’ll take all of the good words we can get right now!!!!

                        • reply Patty ,

                          Have you considered extending the seniors discount to all days during this pandemic instead of just Tuesdays and Thursdays in order to help decrease traffic on those days and help spread density?

                          • reply coop-admin ,

                            Hi Patty!

                            We are considering all kinds of options, but we do find that it is difficult to give a discount and then later have to take it away. The co-op could not, in the long run be fiscally sound and pass along the senior discount every day – it is our largest discount expense. However, while we are offerin curbside service to our most vulnerable, those orders will indeed receive all applicable discounts, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Thanks for reaching out to us!

                          • reply Gerry ,

                            A HUGE THANK YOU to all the staff for keeping the CO-OP open and safe for us. Stay safe and keep well.

                            • reply coop-admin ,

                              Thank you so much!

                              • reply Christina ,

                                The Co-op remains a special place for its dedicated staff and wise administration, and I am grateful… even If I am trying to respect the times and visit as rarely as possible. For that reason, I do not know if you have considered or may already have implemented one-way foot traffic in the narrower aisles. With two-way traffic and staff trying to refill shelves, it has been impossible to maintain the recommended physical distance during past visits. Thanks for keeping us well cared for in these weeks!

                              • reply Matthew Kohler ,

                                You’re doing a great job during a hard time. I can’t thank you enough. I’m glad just about everyone – shoppers and staff members — wears masks these days.

                                I note that you require gloves to be worn even though the CDC, the World Health Organization, the Cleveland Clinic, and many individual doctors have expressed concerns about gloves in a retail setting. The problem is that gloves can move contaminants (including viruses) around quite effectively. The Cleveland Clinic offered this article (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-shouldnt-wear-gloves-to-the-grocery-store/) to explain the problem with gloves.

                                In a clinical setting, a gloved health care provider who interacts with a patient always immediately disposes of the gloves. Of course, moving from patient to patient in a hospital wearing the same pair of gloves is never done. In a retail setting, shoppers and staff would ideally sanitize hands frequently while in public rather than wearing one pair of gloves that touch many, many surfaces.

                                I understand the psychological benefit gloved shoppers so I’ll wear them in the coop even though I’m reasonably certain it is cleaner/safer/more hygienic to use a drop of hand sanitizer every few minutes while shopping.

                                Respectfully,

                                Matt Kohler

                                • reply coop-admin ,

                                  Hi Matthew!

                                  Thanks for reaching out to us about this! I’ll pass your comment on to our Operations Manager, and we’ll get back to you, soon. Have a wonderful day!

                                • reply Marguerite Gregory ,

                                  I had heard of the great changes being made at the coop during the time of the corona virus. Our family’s involvement at the coop dates back to the time of weighing things out in living rooms, and I have a tendency to spend way more than I should, given the delicious items and produce one finds at the coop. Because my husband is very vulnerable, I did an enormous shopping back in mid March and then waited till last week on Monday to venture out gain, since reports were that the coop was very safe and Addison County seemed safer in general also. I arrived as early as possible on a Monday and I was wearing a mask, which seemed like common sense. To my horror, a couple entered just before me, without masks, and the woman seemed to have no strategy for buying her groceries, but bustled about, passing back and forth in front of me and close to me several times. I became frightened, and hence angry. I was told by your excellent staff that masks are not mandatory for customers. Well, I strongly think they should be, and now, finally, the CDC supports my common sense opinion. From now on, rather than run a dangerous gauntlet, I’ll just whiz in and out, just to get frozen blueberries, and will take my business elsewhere, until I hear that masks are mandatory for customers also. Sadly to say, I think you need to treat your vulnerable clients better. Margi

                                  • reply coop-admin ,

                                    Hi Margi!

                                    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ll pass them along to Glenn, or General Manager. We’ll get back to you very soon. Have a great day.

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