Challenging Times Can Bring Out the Best in People

Food industry rises to the occasion as an essential resource provider
Photograph: Shutterstock

“Unprecedented.” It’s a term that’s been uttered a countless number of times since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And with unprecedented times come unknowns and questions that are difficult, if not impossible, to answer: When will a vaccine be developed? How long will this last? When will life return to normal?

With all of the unknowns our world currently faces, one thing is known: The food industry has risen as an essential resource and a leader in these trying times. To help ensure the safety of their customers, food retailers have quickly enacted processes and installed equipment in response to recommendations from global, national and regional agencies to counter the risks associated with group gatherings. The industry is taking the measures necessary to hopefully curtail the spread of COVID-19 while still providing the necessities we all need, from protective barriers in the checkout lanes to increased opportunities for online shopping, pickup and delivery and special morning hours designated for elderly shoppers and those at greater risk. 

As with any challenging event or tragedy, examples of goodwill and exceptional fortitude abound. This is especially true in our industry. Here are just a few:

  • Heeding a call to establish protective barriers between store associates and shoppers, Jim Emmett of Magnolia River, a developer of custom display and merchandising cases, began constructing three-piece, plastic shields for Schnuck Markets. This not only added an extra layer of protection for customers and employees, but also enabled Schnucks to keep its in-store deli departments open, which has been challenging for some retailers.
  • In hard-hit New Jersey, Wakefern Food Corp. donated 12 trailers to assist in moving medical equipment and supplies for four pop-up hospitals that are being constructed. 
  • Texas-based H-E-B is helping the struggling foodservice sector by selling ready-made meals from five local restaurants at its stores in San Antonio, Houston and Austin.
  • The Butterball team in North Carolina donated 500,000 ​meals to The Food Banks of Central & Eastern North Carolina to help feed those impacted by the virus.

The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) applauds the commitment of our members and industry, both in their stores and in their communities. While the association is not on the front lines during this trying time, we continuously look for ways to assist food retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers and their associates who are.

One small way we’re doing this is by working with a print shop in Waunakee, Wis., close to our office in Madison, to make and distribute face masks to area retailers. Minuteman Press has made almost 2,300 masks for associates at six stores. Actions speak louder than words, and this commitment of one local business assisting other local businesses is just one example of how these challenging times are bringing out the best in people, businesses and communities.

COVID-19 Industry Resources

IDDBA is also helping keep the industry abreast on food sales and trends in our stores. Since early April, we’ve been sharing weekly reports and conducting weekly webinars to examine consumer shopping patterns, with a particular focus on the dairy, deli, bakery, cheese and prepared food segments. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read the reports and attend our engaging webinars, which are a great way to stay connected with the industry.

To access the reports and to register for an upcoming webinar, click here

Be well and stay safe, everyone.

Mike Eardley is president and CEO of Madison, Wis.-based IDDBA.


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