About the Coronavirus COVID-19
As of Wednesday, March 25th, we are asking our community to avoid bringing their reusable bags to the store until the coronavirus threat has subsided.
Groceries will be packed in paper bags (with no charge) or boxes (if available) provided by the co-op.
Do you want to avoid single-use bags? You can place your groceries back in the cart as you check out, then transfer everything to your own bag when you return to your car.
New Changes to our Return Policy
Due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 and our inability to monitor products that have left our stores, we are declining all returns (including refunds, store credits and product exchanges) for the safety of our customers and staff.
If any fresh product does not meet your standard, was spoiled or bad before its sell-by date, we will continue to replace it or issue a refund/credit. We are simply asking that you dispose of the product and only bring us the receipt.
We hope the steps we've taken will continue to aid and benefit our community as we work together to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
Attention co-op owners and community members,
Over the past week, River Valley Co-op has made several sweeping changes in our store out of concern for the health and safety of all shoppers and staff. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and we hope the steps we've taken will continue to aid and benefit our community as we work together to overcome the COVID-19 crisis. As always, we will gladly welcome new ideas and feedback on our efforts at any time.
To recap where we currently stand in this evolving situation, here are the actions we've taken up to this point:
- River Valley Co-op is open to everyone between 10 AM - 7 PM. We have reduced our store hours to accommodate our employee time-off needs, such as childcare relating to school closings, as well as other health and safety needs.
- For our community members 60+ and/or with compromised immune systems, our store is open at 9 AM. No doctor's note or proof of age required. We trust you to support our most at-risk community members during this hour.
- All co-op events, including owner appreciation days and our Easthampton store groundbreaking ceremony, are postponed. Reschedule dates have yet to be determined due to the nature of this pandemic.
- Our Prepared Foods Department is now packaging the Hot Bar, Salad Bar and Soups in ready-to-go containers. Our Self-Serve Hot Bar and Salad Bar are temporarily closed at this time.
- On-site dining and customer seating is no longer available.
- All employees working with unpackaged foods, including fresh produce, are wearing gloves.
- We are now prepackaging bulk foods and have eliminated our scoop and liquid bulk items to limit high-touch dispenser usage. Gloves will be provided to all customers who wish to access the gravity bins.
- Our Buying Club and Bakery special orders are suspended until further notice.
- Essential Community Service Compensation Plan for Staff
Additional paid time-off available for all employees' needs related to COVID-19 issues including illnesses, childcare or other family health concerns. Increased compensation by $2 an hour worked for all store employees.
Our top priorities remain the well-being of our employees, providing for our customers' needs and economic security for our local vendors. We are grateful for your shopping support, which enables us to meet these goals. Thank you!
We have been working diligently to secure new sources for the food and cleaning products you need while keeping up with increased demand. Additionally, we are following the news surrounding COVID-19 very closely and will continue to educate ourselves and take additional steps, if necessary.
In an effort to better serve our community, the co-op will reserve 9am–10am for our community members with compromised immune systems. Regular hours will resume at 10 AM-7 PM.
In an effort to better serve our community River Valley Co-op’s store hours have been temporarily adjusted to open at 10 AM and close at 7 PM until further notice.
This will accommodate extra staff time off needs, as well as working with later deliveries and allowing staff the time needed to clean and restock for you.
While some items are in short supply, we are receiving daily deliveries from a wide range of vendors to keep the store as well-stocked as possible.
We are grateful for your support of the co-op and our vendors, many of which are local.
- Prepared Foods is packaging out the Hot Bar and Salad Bar along with the soups as ready to go meals that will be available prepackaged in our grab and go cases. Our Self Service Coffee has been moved to be a counter service to minimize frequent customer touchpoints.
- In Produce, all employees that handle unpackaged fruits and vegetables will wear gloves. As well as removing tongs and pre-packing mushrooms, salad mix and green beans.
- There will be no Customer in-store or deck dining or seats available.
- We have eliminated scoop and tong self- service bulk options. Co-op customers will still access the gravity bins and gloves will be provided All scoop and tong accessed bulk items will be pre-packaged to the extent that we are able to do so. Liquid bulk items will be unavailable at this time to help limit high touch dispenser use in the store.
The current news about the coronavirus COVID-19 has dominated much of the news cycle over the last few weeks. We are closely monitoring the situation and taking extra precautions for the health of our shoppers and staff.
Our top priorities are our employees' well-being, serving our customers/community needs, and our local vendors' economic security. We really appreciate that our community is turning to us for support with securing the products you need at this time. This, in turn, supports our co-op and our staff. The grocery industry supply chain is having a hard time keeping up with the unanticipated nationwide increased demands for groceries and cleaning supplies. Our staff have been working hard to develop alternative sources for the products you want and working to educate ourselves and step up virus prevention measures throughout the store to help minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
We have been following reports from the MA Department of Health, World Health Organization, and CDC, as well as participating in special educational webinars to learn more about recommendations for employers and the food industry. The good news is we already have many food health and safety measures in place. We have taken steps to educate our staff about this virus, focused on minimizing the potential spread of virus within the store by increasing employee handwashing requirements and use of sanitizer as well as the level and frequency of sanitizing and cleaning high touch surfaces. We are also putting proactive contingency plans in place to prepare to respond further as needed. The Governor's March 10th state of emergency declaration to help bring more support and resources to the state may result in better information and guidance for all of us.
Stay tuned to this page for regular updates.**Last Updated 3/11/20**
About the Cornonavirus COVID-19
We've found this video very helpful in understanding more about the virus and how it works. Somehow it seems comforting to know more and we found this video makes the information very accessible.
What Actually Happens If You Get Coronavirus?
The coronavirus COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus that originated recently in Wuhan, China. The virus causes mild to severe respiratory illness. It is contagious and has led to fatalities in some severe cases. Individuals in higher risk categories with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop severe cases. It is transmitted through coughing and sneezing of infected individuals. At the present time, there is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment.
The good news is that most people that get the virus recover from it within a few weeks. However, the risk of severe illness is a serious community health matter. By taking responsibility as a local business and as individuals for doing what we can to disrupt the spread of this virus, we help support keeping everyone in our community safer.
About the Co-op’s Response
We have many procedures already in place to help protect the safety of our employees and customers—procedures we rely on to reduce the spread of foodborne illness and seasonal colds and flu every year. Learn more below.
Food Sampling and Educational Demonstrations
Out of an abundance of caution, we are discontinuing our Food Sampling and Educational Demonstrations at this time.
Postponed Co-op Events
Due to growing concerns regarding the Coronavirus / COVID-19 and health risks related to public events, we are postponing Owner Appreciation Days, Groundbreaking Ceremony and Workshops until the COVID Virus threats subsides. While this decision comes at a time of uncertainty, our priority is the safety and health of our employees and the community.
We know you’re hearing stories about grocery stores running out of food, hand sanitizers, and household needs as consumers stock up on the essentials. One of our strengths is we source from multiple suppliers and don’t pull from a central warehouse. Therefore we have multiple avenues for securing products even when there are gaps in availability. However, the national supply chain was not prepared for this sudden increased demand and we too find ourselves short of certain products. As our staff work to secure alternative suppliers and products we appreciate your patience on temporary shortages of certain products.
Employee Benefits and Sick Time
More than 85 percent of co-op employees work full-time, with industry-leading benefits. This is in direct contrast to many large food retailers, which are staffed primarily by part-time employees without benefits. River Valley Co-op provides paid time off to our part time workers as well full time workers.
Why does this make a difference? Employees without benefits come to work sick. They can’t afford to stay home.
River Valley Co-op encourages sick employees to stay home to reduce the spread of illness and in cases when needed, we require it.
The Virus and Food
According to the Harvard Health Blog, it’s not clear if the virus can spread through food. Even if so, it would be highly unlikely. Regardless, health officials cannot absolutely rule out the possibility of transmission from infected food handlers.
Food Safety at the Co-op
Our employees must follow a strict set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) when handling and producing food. SOPs include detailed directives on hand washing, the use of hand sanitizers, controlling temperature and time for specific foods like plant and animal proteins and information on preventing foodborne illness and the spread of infection.
Staff in our Meat, Seafood, Cheese and Prepared Foods department receive ServSafe® Food Handler training, and our managers and other key employees are ServSafe® certified in active managerial control. ServSafe® is a highly regarded food-safety training program administered by the U.S. National Restaurant Association.
Liesel, our Store Manager, is a ServSafe® certified instructor. No employee works in the co-op's prepared foods or fresh departments without training on how to handle the products properly and safely.
Work with Us
We ask all of our customers and employees to partner with us in this. No matter how many food-safety and virus protection protocols we may have in place, we can't effectively do this alone. We need your support to help fight the spread of this virus as well. WHO has great advice here on how to be responsible in order to protect yourself—and by extension your community—from the virus.
How Can I Protect Myself
Because there is currently no vaccine to prevent infection, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to this virus as much as possible. Most people that get the virus will recover within a few weeks.The risk of severe cases is higher for those with compromised immune systems and the elderly. By protecting ourselves as much as possible we are helping protect everyone in our community and workplace.
To review some key ways to protect yourself include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, scrubbing the soap in for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Refrain from handshakes and high fives, try an elbow bump instead or wave.
- Exercise good hygiene.
- Limit activities that could lead to potential exposure.
- Use good nutrition to keep your immune system strong as well as getting rest and exercise.
The internet is full of misinformation, and social media channels thrive on hyperbolic language. One of the best things you can do is to stay informed with accurate information. We suggest the following, recommended by Harvard Medical School:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- World Health Organization Mythbusters Page
- Medline Plus (A service from the U.S. National Library of Medicine)
For regular news, trust sources with deep, award-winning health reporting. We suggest:
Additional sources of information are available here:
- City of Northampton Health Department https://www.northamptonma.gov/245/Health
- Cooley Dickinson Hospital https://www.cooleydickinson.org/2020/03/coronavirus-q-a/
- Baystate Health System https://www.baystatehealth.org/covid19
More thoughts or questions? Reach out anytime. Call us at (413) 584-2665 or email firstname.lastname@example.org