Amid Coronavirus Outbreak and Panic Buying, Stores Introduce Special Shopping Times for the Vulnerable

As the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has spread and become a global pandemic, many people have flocked to the stores to buy soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other essential items in preparation for the coming weeks. While some stocking up is normal, frantic buyers have gone overboard and virtually cleaned out the stores, leaving nothing on the shelves for the rest of their communities.

Sadly, some of the people most affected by the shortages of household staples are the elderly and those with disabilities. These are the people who may not be able to make it out to the stores very often or who didn’t even hear about the shortages because they aren’t on social media. They may be terrified to go out where so many people are congregated, both because of the illness and for fear of being pushed around by panicked shoppers. They’re the people who may not be capable of reaching the last few packs of toilet paper on a high shelf or beating someone else to the last loaf of bread. They need our help.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Rafael Ben-Ari

Luckily, there are still amazing people in the world who work hard to make sure that the most vulnerable among us get the supplies they need to make it through this global pandemic. Grocery stores and other businesses are devoting specific open hours to the elderly and other vulnerable groups to ensure that every member of the community gets what they need to stay healthy and safe.

Here is a list of all the businesses we have heard are hosting special “elderly only” shopping times for seniors and vulnerable people, as well as those stores that are offering other ways for at-risk populations to get the supplies they need.

Bashas’ Supermarkets

Bashas’ Supermarkets, which also includes Food City and AJ’s grocery stores, will open from 5 to 6 a.m. on Wednesdays for seniors 65 and older. Shoppers may bring a helper with them if necessary, but helpers will not be allowed to shop for themselves.

Dollar General

Dollar General has dedicated its first shopping hour, from 8 to 9 a.m. at most locations, to elderly, disabled, and immunocompromised customers and is calling on other stores to do the same. The policy will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Ranta Images

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Fareway Meat & Grocery

Fareway Meat & Grocery will be opening to shoppers 65 and older, expectant mothers, and people with “increased susceptibility to serious illness” from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Fresh Market

Fresh Market grocery stores in 22 states will reserve from 8 to 9 a.m. for “seniors and those most at risk” from Monday through Friday.

Photo: Adobe Stock/olezzo

FoodTown in Texas

This Texas-based grocery store will be shortening hours for its 30 locations but also making special accommodations for seniors. Those 65 and older may shop without the crowds between 7 and 8 a.m. each day.

Gelson’s

On Wednesdays, seniors 65 and older will have a shopping hour from 7 to 8 a.m. at Gelson’s. Be sure to have your ID with you.

H.E.B. supporting non-profits

H.E.B. hasn’t modified its hours but “will provide a $3M gift to support Texas non-profits helping seniors, children and low-income families as we work together to slow the spread.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/gpointstudio

Jersey City

Grocery stores with three or more cash registers in Jersey City, NJ, will be allocating two hours every morning to the elderly, disabled, and pregnant, as mandated by Mayor Steven Fulop. Get your shopping done from 9 to 11 a.m.

Meijer

Meijer stores and Meijer Express convenience stores are typically open all night, but they’ll now be closing from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. for cleaning and restocking (pay-at-the-pump fuel sales remain available). On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from 7 to 8 a.m., however, they’ll be allowing senior shoppers and those with chronic health conditions to shop and go to the pharmacy.

Mother’s Markets

The California-based grocery store is introducing “Safe Shop Wednesdays” from 6 to 7 a.m. for the “elderly, disabled, those with compromised immune systems, chemo patients, etc.” Home delivery is also available for these high-risk groups with promo code FREE4SENIORS.

Safeway

Albertsons, which runs more than 2,000 Safeway, Acme, and Vons stores, is allowing pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems to shop every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 7 to 9 a.m. in most locations. This policy is in place specifically to help those “who have been advised to avoid leaving home as much as possible.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/WavebreakmediaMicro

Schnucks and Dierbergs

These Missouri-based companies are both doing an hour of senior shopping each morning. Schnucks is offering those aged 60-plus the opportunity to shop from 6 to 7 a.m., while Dierbergs will reserve the 8 to 9 a.m. hour.

Sedano’s Supermarkets

Starting Thursday, this Florida-based chain Sedano’s will be open to seniors over 65 and immunocompromised people from 7 to 8 a.m.

Photo: Adobe Stock/WavebreakmediaMicro

Smith’s Food & Drug Stores

Smith’s Food & Drug Stores is dedicating the 7 to 8 a.m. hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays “solely to the shopping needs of senior citizens until further notice.”

Stop & Shop

Starting Thursday, March 19th, the northeastern regional chain Stop & Shop will open its doors from 6 to 7:30 a.m. to all people over the age of 60.

Target

from 8 to 9 a.m. on Wednesdays, at-risk customers can shop worry-free at Target to get their groceries and other household staples.

Photo: Adobe Stock/imageegami

Vallarta Supermarkets

All Vallarta Supermarket locations are now open from 7 to 8 a.m. for shoppers above the age of 65, pregnant women, and those with disabilities.

Walmart

Walmart stores are currently only open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (stores that opened later than that will still open at their normal times), but starting March 24th, more than 5,000 stores will allow seniors over age 60 to shop in the hour before the stores open every Tuesday until April 28th. There are also quantity limits on certain goods to ensure everyone gets what they need.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods‘s markets in the U.S. and Canada will offer senior shopping hours from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. each day.

Woolworths in Australia

If you’re in Australia, you’re in luck. Where permitted, at least until Friday and possibly longer, Woolworths will be opening their doors from 7 to 8 a.m. for the elderly and disabled.

“While we’ll continue to do our very best to restock our stores during this period of unprecedented demand, we know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop,” managing director Claire Peters said.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Alfons Ven

Individual stores in varying locations

You can conduct a quick Google search or make a few calls to determine whether any of the stores you like to shop at have special hours for seniors. Not everyone is participating, but lots of individual stores are getting involved, such as the Trader Joe’s of Monrovia, California, (9 to 9:30 a.m. for customers over 65) and the Northgate Market of California (7:30 to 8 a.m. for seniors). Another example is Field Foods in St. Louis, MO, which is offering senior shopping from 7 to 8 a.m.


Please add more businesses in the comments if we’ve missed any businesses that should be here. The number of stores making this valuable change is growing faster than we can update the list, which is fantastic!

Thank you to these awesome stores for offering a way for seniors and people with disabilities or compromised immune systems to get the household staples they need without fear of catching the COVID-19 virus or being manhandled by other shoppers.

Please check before you go out to see whether your chosen store has amended hours during the COVID-19 shutdown. Some stores, such as Kroger and Publix, are shortening their hours to allow extra time for cleaning to keep their customers safer.

It is still possible for seniors and immunocompromised people to contract COVID-19 from each other, so please still be careful about washing your hands and staying away from others during your shopping trip.

Let your at-risk friends and loved ones know where they can go for groceries and other products during this difficult time. And remember, when you’re out shopping, only take what you need so that everyone can have some!

Elizabeth Nelson

Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?

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