Community Stores & Suppliers Respond

We at Farm to Plate know stores are front and center in helping keep communities connected to meet immediate, pressing & ever changing needs.

In this fast moving wildfire of Covid-19 you have been resilient, creative & flexible. Everyday is vastly different than the day before- like never before.

In speaking with a number of stores, the connection to community &the health of employees & shoppers has never been stronger.

Today Governor Scott deemed grocery store & distribution workers as "essential" a category that provides higher level of support services including child care services. It is reassuring that your work is recognized within our communities.

Everyone of us has personal, emotional, &professional variables we are working through. To do so while maintaining ordering & stocking groceries or managing the uncertainties at warehouses is herculean in this climate of uncertainty.

VRGA has provided a number of resources as had VSFA, f armers too are getting lots of support through UVM Extension Vegie Grower list serve.
Reach out and let us know how we can share resources or support you .
New at Buffalo Mountain Coop: Online orders with curbside pick-up to meet community needs while reducing employee contact with customers .
Distributors have been under enormous pressure the past seven days. Based on the national conversation there is plenty of food currently in the supply chain with gaps in proteins particularly chicken & some beef products.

However some stores have not received orders at all. This is multi-faceted. National distributors are servicing their largest retail accounts ( think UNFI & Whole Foods/Amazon Go) leaving many of our smaller independents without orders. Others have found gaps in drivers as they send more direct the Boston terminal to pick up produce. Others still, have staff that are high risk & no longer able to perform their job.

If you are in need of fresh produce Upper Valley Produce is willing to help you out providing produce, protein & other products. Additionally, they are able to assist farmers getting excess produce throughout Vermont and even to Boston. The beauty of our network of locally owned businesses is shining. Contact Drew if you need products.
Craftsbury General Store: is quickly moving to meet community needs using social media, a great community connector in helping stores get food to the most vulnerable in their communities. There are also networks of non-profits working closely particularly with independent & coop stores, food banks, food shelves & the local food hub network.
Pratt's Store in Bridport: meeting community needs with their quick response team
A few things we are hearing:

Grocers are creatively tailoring their community support
Senior Shopping Hours- first hour or two of opening: within a few short days this is now a very common practice across stores of all sizes
Free Deliveries: often with low minimum orders & flexibility to meet customer needs
Online orders: for curbside pick up
Limit product quantities to spread out supply
Family size meals rather than single serve to make the most of limited deli help & use their cafe capacity - with lots of great comfort food
Expanded bulk/case purchasing promoting more food less shopping
Increasing local deliveries helping local produce & meat producers who can no longer sell at farmers markets
Fewer hand stacked produce displays to reduce customer contact
Creating online ordering platforms that foster pre-orders limiting customer ins-store visits
Focused ordering from suppliers on high-value products
Staff support & extended time off for employees
Shortened hours, closed certain days or hours for restocking
Since last week, sales have been off the charts with panic buying. The Buffalo Mountain Coop was closed for an extended period to clean the store, stock shelves and provide staff time to do their jobs without the pressure of customer engagement.
Butcher & Pantry in Brownsville this week has been shorted by a primary distributor with no idea when the next order will show up. They are not alone. This is happening to our smaller stores. Fortunately they work with the Food Hub network and got a call from Food Connects & were offered products they needed. A great example of working together to support local producers & local suppliers to meet customer needs.
The past 7 days has seen a huge run on proteins. Some distributors have sold all retail pack sizes though they have plenty for "food service" . With the close of all restaurants this has been a huge impact on what is in the pipe line & finding the right outlets . Food service pack sizes are not retail ready. It is showcasing the variety of products to meet the end consumer.
Thank you to all the farmers, food manufacturers, distributors & supplies who spoke with us today providing first hand information for this update. Your insider-view has been so helpful in this uncertain time.

The sense is that panic buying has leveled out, but high personal & professional uncertainty & anxiety remains high as we navigate extreme unknowns. Farm to Plate will be sending out emails addressing this critical time.

Contact Annie H Harlow for info, support inquiries,
or to share your retail tips

Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund