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Hidden Heroes: The Workers on the Food Supply Frontline

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

By: Molly Amick

With the quick rise of the coronavirus cases in the United States also came a rapid onslaught of fear and panic in many Americans. Many states are on lockdown and the estimated end dates of this government-mandated isolation seem to be pushed farther and farther back. The people are faced with uncertainty about when this will all blow over, and only essential businesses remain standing in the face of this storm. These businesses, crucial to Americans and their survival and prosperity, have been overwhelmed with new challenges to face as the public is in crisis. Grocery stores, postal services and takeout restaurants have been hit with a sudden wave of customers as Americans fret over keeping their kitchens stocked, their families fed, and their households supplied with necessary products.

What we fail to acknowledge is the indisputably essential hard work the employees of these businesses provide to ensure these things are possible. The supply of necessary goods to people helps them to self-quarantine and do their duty to ensure a safe public environment. However, the workers who are responsible for the stocking of shelves, delivering goods and preparing food are put in more inherent danger just by interacting with customers and having contact (or even just sharing space) with fellow employees. “The Washington Post” reported that some workers from Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Giant have lost their lives to COVID-19. The workers providing sometimes basic and simple tasks are also in higher demand than ever. NBC News discloses that some states, like Vermont and Minnesota, are beginning to classify grocery store workers as “essential emergency workers.”

Essential businesses aren’t having fewer customers; they’re busier than ever. Their employees are risking their health in order to have a source of income and sustain themselves, but also to serve the people in a time that is absolutely essential to have these workers. Without them, the basic needs of the American people would not be satisfied, and we’d surely have an anarchic situation in our hands.

As a grocery store associate, I see the rise in customers; it puts strain on us remaining workers. Some leave due to illness or fear of contracting the virus. The hostility of customers doesn’t help either. It is evident that many people are stressed and struggling to get the items they need. This doesn’t make arguing over the last pack of toilet paper or the last bottle of hand sanitizer worthwhile.

One new practice many stores have been implementing is the regulation of the number of customers permitted in the store at a time. This is an important feature that gives shoppers the ability to social distance within the store, as well as decrease the risk of exposure to the virus to the employees. Because stores are lowering the capacity of persons permitted to enter, many must form lines for the customers waiting to enter. Causing a wait isn’t ideal for anyone, but when it comes to battling the reckless spread of the virus, no precaution can be taken for granted.

I work at a grocery store, so I understand the new systems of social distancing and waiting in line are nobody’s favorite thing to do; they can make for a more stressful and time-consuming shopping experience. However, the complaints and resentment towards the businesses and employees are unwarranted--we are doing our best to protect your health, and by extension, the health of your families. We are doing our best to protect our health and well-being, too, ensuring we can continue to workday after day to provide the goods and services you rely on during these times. We show up so that you can buy the food you need. We work hard to generate income, so we are able to do the same. We are keeping the store as clean as possible, sanitizing carts, displays and checkout surfaces to decrease the likelihood of virus transmission. The circumstances we’re dealing with are nobody’s friend, so let’s strive to keep our communities safe together.

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