Staff at Save-On-Foods in Cranbrook demonstrate proper social distance techniques. Barry Coulter photo

Staff at Save-On-Foods in Cranbrook demonstrate proper social distance techniques. Barry Coulter photo

Kootenay grocers working to keep us fed

This is part of an ongoing series in the Townsman/Bulletin paying tribute to our front line workers during the pandemic

This is part of an ongoing series in the Townsman/Bulletin paying tribute to our front line workers during the pandemic

We are all grateful to those who continue to work on the front lines during this world-wide health crisis. In the next few weeks, the Townsman/Bulletin will introduce you to some of our local heroes, working in hospitals, grocery stores, fire departments and more.

Today, grocery store workers are our focus. They are as front-line as any, with stores open to the public for long hours. As much as any, the job they do is helping keep our lives secure and with a semblance of normality.

Save-On-Foods in Cranbrook is example of the efforts put into keeping the community supplied, fed, and safe during the pandemic. They have had to adjust procedures and policies to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and deal with pressures on the supply-lines that people have taken for granted for so long.

Ted Murrell, manager at Cranbrook Save-On, says the health and safety of their team members and customers has always been Save-On’s highest priority. But it is certainly not business as usual and the team is working incredibly hard to keep our stores safe and well stocked during this pandemic.

“I am so proud of the work our teams are doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our stores,” he told the Townsman. “We remain committed to supporting our local community.”

When it comes to Save-On’s commitment to their communities, the goal remains the same at this time… to always support local first.

“Community is everything and supporting our communities – including our more than 2,500 local grocers, producers and suppliers – is one of our biggest priorities,” Murrell said.

“Right from the start, we stayed plugged into the needs of our communities – in addition to working around the clock to ensure that our stores were (and are!) being replenished quickly and with as much locally purchased inventory as possible, we adjusted our operating hours to provide a quieter, more comfortable shopping environment for our seniors, essential service providers, and shoppers who are differently-abled.”

Save-On also took immediate steps to make sure that they were able to provide continued support, including the provision of food, to charity partners who rely on them for support all throughout the year.

“From providing additional support to local food banks to helping provide meal support to vulnerable kids in our school communities to arranging special orders for first nations and remote communities, we have done our very best to provide resources, tools, information, and broader community connections to those in need.”

To limit the spread of COVID-19 in stores, Save-On has:

• Increased the already high standards on food safety, sanitation and cleanliness

• Encouraged team members to wash hands regularly and frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces

• Reserved the first hour of the day from 7 a.m. until 8 a.m. for seniors and those most at risk to reduce contact.

• Temporarily suspended bottle returns and the use of reusable shopping bags in store

• Closed bulk foods areas, hot buffets, and bread-slicing stations, among other self-service offerings

• To minimize pin pad use, customers can now use contactless payment for purchases of up to $250

To encourage physical distancing at our stores, Save-On teams have been implementing many new practices, including limiting the number of customers in the store during peak shopping hours to allow for 10 square feet per person and two metres between customers, removed seating in common areas, installed plexiglass shields to pharmacies and checkouts, added one-way arrows in narrow aisles where it is most beneficial for customers and team members.

Also panic buying is happening everywhere, and Save-On is doing its best to manage it, by implementing measures to mitigate this behaviour, including reinforcing limits on high-demand items.

“And we are asking our customers to please only buy what your family needs,” Murrell said.

“We know this situation isn’t easy for people,” he added. “It can be scary and frustrating when you can’t purchase what you’ve come to buy. We get it, and we are working hard to fill our shelves back up each and every day.

“Be kind,” Murrell said. “ Be kind to our people, and to each other. The team members who work in our stores do not control the supply chain and they have left their families to help us feed yours. They are working tirelessly to get food, medicine, and supplies on our shelves and through our checkouts as safely and efficiently as possible.

“To say that we appreciate their hard work and commitment is an understatement.”