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

updated 03/20/20

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. Stay tuned to this page for regular updates.

About the Virus
For complete information, visit this excellent and frequently updated page from our friends at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center:

https://www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/patient-education/coronavirus.html

About the Co-ops 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 among the best in the business.

 We have a highly active food-safety committee and a network of veteran food professionals who monitor information regularly from the USDA.

Our employees must follow a strict set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) when handling products. SOPs include detailed directives on hand washing, the use of hand sanitizers, product considerations, and information on preventing foodborne illness and the spread of infection.

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.

In short, no employee goes near the Co-op’s prepared foods or other products without extensive training on how to handle the products properly and safely.

Cleaning Procedures
The Co-op has extensive SOPs for cleaning our stores.

Every department cleans and sanitizes surfaces as part of closing procedures. Front End employees clean register areas thoroughly. Cleaning areas include hard surfaces, printers, screens, scales, counters, credit card machines, and any other general surface touched on a daily basis. Front End teams repeat these procedures throughout the day as customer flow allows or when asked to do so by the next person in line.

Other surfaces, such as door handles on coolers/freezers, are cleaned throughout the day and as part of closing procedures. We employe a third party to clean our restrooms and other common areas.

Demos
Out of an abundance of caution, we are discontinuing all food demos at this time. 

Classes
All classes scheduled to be held in the Co-op Learning Center at our Lebanon store have been canceled through March 31. The decision is in response to CDC recommendations to limit events and encourage self-distancing. Our hope is to resume classes on April 1. We will continue to monitor the local situation closely.

We are not planning to reschedule any classes that have been canceled. During this pause in our Learning Center programming we will conduct additional cleaning and sanitizing of all Learning Center equipment and take time to plan for upcoming spring and summer class schedules. If you have any questions about classes please contact us at classes@coopfoodstore.com.

Employee Benefits and Sick Time
More than 80 percent of Co-op employees work full-time, with industry-leading benefits. This is in direct contrast to many large food retailers, which are staffed primarily by part-time employees without benefits.

Why does this make a difference? Employees without benefits come to work sick. They can’t afford to stay home. This is not an issue at the Co-op, where employees are encouraged to use their paid time off, stay home, and reduce the spread of illness.

Employees have generous paid time off banks, which they are able to use if they become ill. Upon confirmation that an employee has COVID-19, any paid time off used for this purpose will be returned to the employee for future use. The same process holds true if an employee is placed in medical quarantine.

Supplies
We know you’re hearing stories about grocery stores running out of food, hand sanitizers, and household needs as consumers horde the essentials. One of our strengths is 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.

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 to 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.

Learn More
More thoughts or questions? Reach out anytime. Call us at (603) 643-2667 or email comment@coopfoodstore.com.

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Ken Davis

Ken Davis

Ken Davis is a writer in the Co-op Outreach Department. Email him at kdavis@coopfoodstore.com.