Minden-area senior Shirley Newman said she wanted to beat crowds when she visited Dollo’s Foodland March 20 at 8 a.m.

But she said she was not the only person to have the idea – resulting in a more crowded shopping experience than she expected. Maintaining the recommended two-metres apart from people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic became difficult, she said. Some shelves were also bare.

“It just isn’t right,” Newman said, adding she thinks there should be more rules enforced on shoppers. “It’s not normal anymore. It’s a different world right now.”

But local grocery stores and food banks are taking steps to adapt to the COVID-19 situation and ensure people can still get access to food, while reducing the risk of the virus spreading.

Foodland’s parent company, Sobeys, said it is adding a seniors shopping hour from 7-8 a.m. and is rolling out handwashing stations, plexiglass shields in front of cashiers, reduced hours and floor markers to keep people at a two-metre distance in lineups.

“We are being vigilant, following the lead of Canada’s public health agencies, and continue to act quickly on measures to keep our customers and employees healthy and safe,” public affairs specialist Violet MacLeod said.

Foodland president and CEO Michael Medline said in a release his company is working to stock shelves.

“I have great confidence in the incredibly robust grocery and food supply chain in Canada,” Medline said.

Todd’s Your Independent Grocer in Haliburton has also taken measures, such as a seniors shopping hour, reduced opening hours and a limited capacity for people inside. The store has asked people to shop alone and not bring their families.

“These precautions are for everyone’s protection. Most customers are terrific and are adjusting to the changes,” owner Steve Todd said on Facebook. “We are putting up stock as fast as Loblaw warehouses and vendors can get it to us.”

Organizations are also working to get vulnerable customers out of stores altogether.

The Central Food Network has partnered with Wilberforce Foodland to start grocery delivery for Highlands East and Harcourt residents. The network is also delivering groceries to its regular clientele.

“Knowing our demographic we have an older population, we have people with compromised immune systems. So, we knew access to food was going to be critical,” operational and administrative director Tina Jackson said.

Food banks are now limiting the public from entering their buildings, though are continuing operations.

Jackson said the food network is expecting an impact on their demand, with people experiencing income disruption and dealing with empty grocery store shelves. But she added they made sure to stock up last week.

The Rotary Club of Haliburton is also delivering groceries from the Haliburton Foodland.

Haliburton 4Cs food bank manager Judy MacDuff said they are also bracing for increased demand.

“We’re getting prepared,” MacDuff said. “There’s going to be so many people that need the food bank with them being laid off.”

Both food banks said financial donations are preferable. Jackson added toilet paper donations are also needed.

“We are here for people,” Jackson said. “We are all in this together and that’s what makes our community great is that we all stand together. People should not hesitate to give us a call.”

To access food delivery from Haliburton Foodland, call Monday – Friday between 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. at 705-457-2242 or email anytime fld6447haliburton@sobeys.com and place your order. Haliburton Foodland said it would like to reserve the service for seniors and the most vulnerable at this time.

The Highlands East and Harcourt delivery is accessible by contacting 705-448-2811 or email foodland7256@hotmail.com to make and pay for an order.

Those looking to access the Central Food Network and delivery can contact 705-448-9711 or tina@centralfoodnetwork.org.

Correction: The printed version of this story in the March 26 edition had the incorrect phone number for the Central Food Network. It is correct in this online version. The Highlander apologizes for the error.

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