Five Ways You Can Support Essential Workers Right Now

Hey! It’s your friendly neighborhood essential worker here! I’ve compiled a list of tips for shopping during a pandemic. Some of them may seem obvious, but others not so much. Be sure to consider all of these tips carefully. Hopefully you’ll remember these during your next grocery run.

  1. 1. Wear protective gear as per CDC guidelines

    Any time you leave your house to go in public you should be wearing a face covering. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. This is not only to keep you safe, but to keep everyone around you safe— especially essential workers. Essential workers encounter so many people during a single shift that lasts hours, putting them at more risk than anyone, of being exposed to COVID-19. If you have not been able to buy your own masks, the CDC gives instructions on how to make your own here.

  2. 2. Only shop for essentials

    shopping cart

    I know that all of the clothes and seasonal items can be tempting to browse, but I highly encourage resisting the urge to wander around stores in order to look at nonessential items. Firstly, the only reason that these stores are open is so that people can still have access to necessary items like food, medicine and paper goods. The longer you spend in a store looking at things you don’t really need is more time potentially exposing yourself (or others) to the virus. Additionally, the fewer people in a store at any given time is always safer and makes social distancing easier, so be sure to make your shopping trips as quick as you can.

  3. 3. If you change your mind about an item, return it to where you found it

    Eggs Egg Carton

    Okay so this one sounds like one you should be doing anyway, but let me let you in on some insider information.

    Picture this: you’re being a good citizen stocking up (but not stockpiling!) on some food for your family, but are on a budget. You didn’t see the price of the half-gallon of milk you just grabbed because you’re in a hurry to get out – you don’t want to be in a public space any longer than you have to be. You get to the checkout and the cashier scans the milk and you realize it’s too expensive for you to afford. No problem! The cashier takes it off your bill and you go on your way. Except that perfectly good milk you didn’t want? Tossed. Garbage. Trash.

    Many big stores like Target and Walmart that sell more than groceries have a policy that any perishable food items (food stored in a refrigerator or freezer) abandoned at checkout must be thrown out. In some grocery stores, they sometimes have a worker on hand specifically for returning perishable items from the checkout immediately after customers abandon them.

    We’re in the middle of a health crisis, so now more than ever we can’t afford to be throwing out perfectly good food. Items like milk, eggs, and ground meat, staples in people’s diets, are currently wiped from the shelves and could reach more people who need it if there were more product to go around.

    My advice to avoid wasting food is to always double-check the price and ask yourself if you truly need this item. If you can’t find the price, look it up on your phone. Some stores like Target even have a scanner built into the app that allows you to scan the barcode of any item in the store for the price. If this is a habit you can get into even after the pandemic, you’ll still be contributing to the saving of essential items from the garbage.

  4. 4. Make sure you know your local stores’ new hours

    a bottle of clorox, hand sanitizers and a container of lysol wipes sit on a wooden table

    Please, please, PLEASE do not walk into a store ten minutes before closing, intending to buy all of your essentials for the week. This doesn’t apply to those last-minute absolutely necessary items like baby formula, cold medicine, etc., but rather a full cart of groceries. I understand anyone who is looking to shop during hours with minimal traffic, but I plead with them to go earlier rather than later. Every minute we take after closing scanning your items is a minute that we lose to disinfect our entire store after a whole day of people touching the checkout lanes and other parts of the store. Arriving in the morning means that you’ll beat the crowds and be handling more recently disinfected surfaces. It’s a win-win for you and essential workers will be so grateful that you’re not taking time away from our tedious cleaning routine.

  5. 5. Be patient and mindful

    woman holding a smiling balloon

    This is probably the most important tip of all. Understand that you are not shopping under regular circumstances. New procedures have been implemented for the safety of you and employees. This means not taking it personally if someone requests that you give another guest more space. This means not getting frustrated with customer service employees who are not permitted to accept any returns or exchanges for the time being. This means entering and exiting only through the designated entrances and exits. In essence, realize that nobody is thrilled with the current circumstances, but accept that safety is everyone’s first priority. Be polite and remember to say thank you. A little acknowledgment of the risk involved with being an essential worker goes a long way.