From the GM: COVID-19 July Update

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Jackson County, we want to take a moment to update our community on the current policies and procedures at the Co-op.

Masks Required

As of July 24th, all shoppers age 5 and up are required to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering over the nose and mouth while in the store or the Café. (Since July 1st, all shoppers 12 and up have been required to wear a face covering.) Face coverings are not required while eating or drinking in the dining area in the Café, but otherwise must be worn at all times. If you are unable or unwilling to wear a face covering, we are happy to accommodate you with our online ordering option. Visit medfordfood.coop/orders to place an order for pick-up. To increase accessibility to this service, our $5 order fee has been suspended until further notice.

While shopping in the store, please try to maintain 6 feet between yourself and others whenever possible. We know social distancing is difficult to maintain in some areas of the store, which is one reason why face coverings are required for all shoppers age 5 and up, and children under 5 are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings with the assistance and supervision of an adult.

Co-op staff have been required to wear masks since May 15th. While shoppers spend 15-20 minutes in the store on an average visit, many of our staff members work in the store five days a week, eight hours a day. An average of 450 customers visit the Co-op each day, which translates to a significant risk for full-time and part-time staff. We wear our masks to protect you, and your masks help to protect us. Working together for mutual benefit is at the heart of what we do. Thank you for your commitment to cooperation, and for the care and concern you’ve shown our staff these last few months.

Staff Appreciation

We can’t say it enough: our staff are essential to the operation of the Co-op. In recognition of their kindness, courage, and dedication, the Board and GM authorized a temporary premium pay bonus of $2 per hour for all hourly Co-op employees in late March. While the Co-op was not able to maintain the hazard bonus after the initial pay periods offered, the GM has since issued permanent pay increases of $.50–$1.00 per hour for all hourly staff. In addition to the permanent pay increases, all hourly staff received a paid day off on July 4th, and are currently given two paid meals from the Café each month.

Despite the drastic decrease in Café sales and hours, we were able to keep most (77%) Café staff working full schedules by offering them shifts in the store. The three exceptions continued to work in the Cafe, but at reduced hours. The Café continues to operate at reduced hours: open Monday–Friday 8am to 6pm and closed Saturday & Sunday.

Reduced store hours in April and May helped staff keep up with new procedures and additional cleaning. Shorter hours made it easier to have more staff scheduled during the busy times of day to cover necessary tasks and shortened the day for closing managers. Managers juggled schedules and worked overtime to make it possible for staff to take unscheduled personal days – often just to provide a day or two for staff to unwind from the stress of our new normal.

Our Compassionate Paid Time Off (PTO) program provided for five employees who were sick for multiple days. They received a total of 116.5 PTO hours that were donated by managers.

Bulk Department

In the early days of the pandemic, staff immediately started to identify high-touch and high-risk areas around the Co-op and craft new policies and procedures to reduce risks for both shoppers and staff. The bulk department was identified as one of the areas of the store that would require attention: 1) many bulk items are ready-to-eat, meaning they do not go through a cooking process whereby any possible virus contamination would be eliminated by heating the food; and 2) the entire department is high-touch, and scoop bins require the hand holding the scoop to dip into the bin of food to dispense product. To resolve the situation quickly, we made staff members available to clerk-service the bulk department until we could figure out a long term solution. Clerk-service reduced the number of hands touching bin surfaces in the bulk department in between sanitization, and ensured trained staff members with clean hands and gloves were the only individuals interacting with ready-to-eat foods.

We’re happy to report that the bulk department is available for self-service again! You might have noticed that new gravity bins replaced the majority of the scoop bins in early July. Most ready-to-eat products are now in gravity bins for touchless dispensing or pre-packaged for your safety. We’ve also transitioned the bulk herbs and spices into jars with shaker tops, so you can shake the contents into a container, eliminating the need for a handheld scoop to dip into the jar. Staff members regularly sanitize the bin handles and scoops throughout the day, along with all other high-touch areas in the store. Please take extra precautions in the bulk department by washing your hands in the available sink and wearing gloves when dispensing products from bins and jars.

Product Availability

We are now accepting special orders in all departments, including bulk. Supplement and bulk orders are subject to availability. Specifically, we are unable to guarantee fulfillment of bulk rice orders at this time.

A friendly reminder that purchasing limits still apply to the following items:

  • Toilet paper is limited to one 4-pack, one 12-pack, or four single rolls
  • Packaged flour from King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill is limited to one 5 lb bag
  • Liquid hand soap is limited to one bottle per item
  • Dry active yeast is limited to one 3-pack

Gloves are worn by all staff in food packing and preparation areas, as is always required. Customer use of gloves is also encouraged when dispensing bulk product. Proper glove use requires frequent hand washing and gloves to be changed frequently, otherwise gloves become a source of contamination and no longer provide protection. Due to glove shortages, we are not requiring staff to wear gloves unless they choose, nor is it possible for all staff members to adhere to proper glove use given frequent cash handling required in certain positions. Regardless of glove use, all staff are trained and regularly reminded to practice frequent and thorough hand washing before, during, and after their shifts.