The national coin shortage—caused by pandemic-related closures of businesses and banks, which have disrupted the supply chain and circulation patterns—is expected to ease as normal operations begin to resume. But until that happens, several food retailers are taking the matter into their own hands.
Through the end of the year, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers is asking its customers to round up their bill at checkout to support a designated charity. The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, is also offering a round-up option in support of its Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation, as well as allowing customers to load the change to their loyalty card for future use.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer has a different approach, temporarily converting its self-checkout lanes to credit/debit cards only and accepting cash only at staffed lanes.
“While the nation’s shortage of coins is unexpected, we see this as another opportunity to once again help our neighbors in need and grow stronger together,” said Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers, parent company and home of Bi-Lo, Fresco y Mas, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie, in a release.
Southeastern Grocers’ “SEG Positive Change Round Up Campaign” will support different charitable partners at certain times, including Feeding America (July 24-Aug. 4); the American Heart Association’s “Life Is Why We Give” campaign (Aug. 5-25); Feeding America for Hunger Action Month (Aug. 26-Sept. 29); American Red Cross’ Disaster Relief (Sept. 30-Nov. 3 at Southeastern Grocers stores in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas); the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (Aug. 26-Sept. 29 at Winn-Dixie stores in Alabama and Mississippi); and the Ochsner Cancer Institute (Aug. 26-Sept. 29 at Winn-Dixie stores in Louisiana).
All change donated will be electronically collected and the total will be rounded up to the nearest dollar by Southeastern Grocers.
The Federal Reserve said it expects coin inventories to rebuild as the economy recovers and businesses reopen. In the meantime, it is working with the U.S. Mint and others in the industry on solutions. Thus far, it has imposed a temporary cap on the orders depository institutions place for coins to ensure that the current supply is fairly distributed. It also created a U.S. Coin Task Force to identify, implement and promote actions to address disruptions to coin circulation.
In late June, several industry associations, including the National Grocers Association (NGA) and FMI-The Food Industry Association, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve asking for more coins to be released from the federal inventory or for increased production to meet retailers’ needs. The letter also asks for guidance from the Federal Reserve on potential retailer responses to the shortage.
The coin shortage could negatively impact low-income individuals the most, as well as those who are unbanked.
Arlington, Va.-based NGA notes that about 20% of grocery transactions are still paid for with cash. "Independent grocery serves many communities throughout the U.S. that are underbanked or unbanked, and without availability of coinage, these customers are going to be hardest hit. This is the time for the Fed to fully use its coin inventory to relieve this problem and for the Mint to redouble its efforts to ensure we replenish reserves at the Fed and at financial institutions,” said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of NGA