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How do I safely shop for supplies?

The way we shop for groceries is not the same today as it was before COVID-19.

Jo Snyder


Gone, for now, are the days when we could go into the store for a casual shop, perusing the aisles without a plan in mind for dinner. We’re experiencing a paradigm shift in the grocery stores—everyone must become mission-driven shoppers.


People have panic-shopped and hoarded their way through the first month-and-a-half of this pandemic, but now it’s time to shop for supplies with intent—with clear consideration for others.


Online shopping or home delivery services are a great solution, but sometimes you have to wait for days or even weeks for your delivery. Some services aren’t taking new clients at all.


Here are a few of the key things that our health experts are asking us to do so we can get the things we need to survive while doing our part to flatten the curve.


Minimize your trips out


Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, reminds us that "Each time we leave our homes, we increase the risk of virus spread." Minimizing your trips out is key to flattening the curve. When you have to get provisions, here are some things to think about:

  • Make a list of exactly what you need before you go out.

  • Check your fridge and cupboards, thinking about what kinds of meals you’re able to make—and think one or two weeks at a time.

  • Visualize your local grocery store, thinking ahead about where everything is so you can shop with intent once you’ve entered the store—maybe even write your grocery list according to the layout of the store.

  • Ask your neighbours or someone you’re helping out if they need something before you go to the store, so you’re not doubling back.


Shop solo and make it quick


John Haggie, Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister, is encouraging everyone to shop according to “one person, one trip, each week."


These safety measures aren’t just for you and your family, they’re also for those working in frightening times to make sure that we get the food we need. Grocery workers are vulnerable to the volume of people they come in contact with everyday.


We need our grocery stores to stay open so we can all safely get food, but we need to ensure our actions protect the workers, too. In the past few days, grocery store workers in the US have started to die from COVID-19 complications. Here in Canada, our front-line grocery store workers face the same risk, and we’ve experienced a similar loss recently in Oshawa Ontario. Though many companies are stepping up to ensure the safety of those on the job.


Here’s what you can do:

  • Head to the store alone if you are physically able. Don’t make plans to meet a friend there, or even stop for a chat when you do see someone you know. Give a friendly wave and then focus. Know that the day will come when grocery shopping is fun again.

  • Be decisive at the shelf. If you touch it, you take it. Get what you came for and keep moving through the aisle.

  • Don’t forget, people are waiting behind you.

  • In the store keep your distance outside and inside the store: safely 6 feet/2 meters apart.

Wash up when you get home


The Center for Disease Control says that there isn’t really any evidence to suggest that a person can become infected from food. There is an extremely low chance that it would be on packaging, and then someone touches the package, and then touches their mouth and becomes infected.


Here’s the first thing you can do to ensure your grocery outing keeps your household safe: Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds when you get home from the store, and again after you’ve put your food away, and again before you cook and eat. Keep the surfaces of your kitchen clean by wiping them down with soap and water. You can read a little more about how long the virus can last on various surfaces here.


Here is a little video from CBC Nova Scotia to learn a little more about what you can do when you get home from the store. And have a listen to the popular podcast Science Vs. tackle the question, “Should I disinfect everything?”


Jo Snyder is a seasoned communications professional with expertise on the social determinants of health and health equity. Over her career, she's worked with think tanks, non-profits and big tech to deliver comms of all kinds.


This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

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