NJ Food Council emphasizes employee, consumer health during COVID-19

Gabrielle Saulsbery//April 16, 2020//

NJ Food Council emphasizes employee, consumer health during COVID-19

Gabrielle Saulsbery//April 16, 2020//

Listen to this article

In response to Executive Order 122 mandating cloth face coverings for customers and employees at essential retail establishments like grocery stores, New Jersey Food Council took to Twitter to promote the #ClothCoverChallenge to engage consumers on social media to create their own cloth covering.

It’s one piece of NJFC’s Mission Critical, a statewide communication blitz intended to provide information and resources to New Jersey’s consumers and the grocery workforce to enable them to navigate the aisles during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Linda Doherty, president, New Jersey Food Council.

“The sudden outbreak and dramatic impact of the coronavirus created panic, empty store shelves and uncertainty among shoppers and grocery workers. We realized there was no playbook so it was necessary to work closely with our government partners, rally behind the challenges of the food industry, inform the public and support our workforce,” said Linda Doherty, president and chief executive officer of NJFC, in a prepared statement.

The communication blitz has engaged media throughout the state, including with the placement of a statewide banner ad on the TAPInto news network, which reaches more than one million readers a month, urging shoppers to properly discard personal protective equipment like masks and gloves.

NJFC also developed and distributed 10 Safe Shopping Tips throughout mainstream and trade media and social media channels for NJFC, its members, its vendors and its supporters.

One key tip: Use your eyes to inspect items, not your hands.

A statewide 30-second public service announcement is also being broadcast on news stations, in partnership with the New Jersey Broadcasters Association, educating shoppers and employees on how to remain safe as they follow COVID-19 government mandates.

In partnership with the office of the governor, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, the NJFC developed an online jobs and hiring portal for out-of-work New Jerseyans to apply for positions and for food retailers to promote job openings.

The Food Council is asking shoppers to hang up reusable bags … for now. – PEXELS

NJFC’s initiative discourages reusable bags as a temporary way in which to keep employees safe, something the organization is trying to do in other ways as well: the NJFC has implored state officials to designate food retail workers as not just “essential workers,” but “emergency workers.”

“[Essential status] provides limited access to critical items like personal protective equipment and preferential access to COVID-19 testing. Designating food workers as ’emergency workers’ would give added protections,” Doherty told NJBIZ via email.

Now that store employees are required to wear face coverings under EO 122, “access to surgical masks and gloves (not N95 masks or protective gowns) will certainly help with store operations and provide an added sense of confidence in the system,” Doherty said.