A trip to the grocery store used to look very different. Devoted meal preppers might make one big trip a week, while others popped in daily to pick up whatever they were craving that day.
You might have toted a well-thought out list or maybe you preferred to browse around, hoping to be inspired by what’s fresh or on sale. Now that we’re all hyper-focused on making as few trips out of our homes as possible, our grocery shopping experiences have melded. We plan breakfasts, lunches and dinners weeks in advance, while simultaneously forced to stay flexible based on what’s on the shelves when we arrive. During this shift, the one constant has been the incredible service and dedication of the amazing staff at our local grocery stores, who are putting in long, hard hours to help us stay safe and fed.
At many stores, patrons are greeted with freshly sanitized carts as they arrive and are counted in order to maintain a low percentage of the facility’s maximum capacity. Up and down the aisles, signs dot the shelves reminding us to limit the number of toilet paper rolls, cleaning wipes and pasta that we purchase in an effort to keep in-demand items available. At the register, decals on the floor mark six-foot intervals as a visual reminder to keep our distance, while plexiglass shields form a barrier between shoppers and cashiers. To protect those who are most at risk, many stores have implemented senior and first responder shopping hours and discounted online shopping and delivery fees.
All these measures seem to make the experience feel even more transactional than normal and it’s easy to hurry through your trip with your head down, trying to get in and out as fast as possible.
In your rush, you may not notice that the store is full of just as many personal shoppers as there are patrons—people carefully selecting items for at-risk individuals who aren’t comfortable venturing out of their homes. Or maybe you overlooked the constant presence of stockers loading waves of product onto the shelves. It’s not hard to miss the slight wrinkle in the corner of your cashier’s eye, the only bit of her smile that you can see through her mask, as you try to pay for your goods without contaminating the credit card machine.
Through it all, these almost invisible details are the marks of a valiant effort by our grocers to do their normal duty, putting food on our tables while taking on a new role as community caretakers.
They have met long hours and increased exposure with big hearts and helping hands and have quickly become everyday heroes to which we all owe a wide, warm smile when we’re finally able to remove our masks.
By Lindsay C. Bishop