Government Shutdown: An Update on What Grocers are Doing to Help Affected Workers

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Government Shutdown: An Update on What Grocers are Doing to Help Affected Workers

By Randy Hofbauer - 01/25/2019
Government Shutdown: An Update on What Grocers are Doing to Help Affected Workers

Although a deal has been reached to reopen the federal government, Americans endured five weeks of its partial shutdown, making times difficult financially for furloughed workers.

Consumers, including many government workers, already struggle with finances even when collecting paychecks. A Career Builder survey reveals that 78 percent of those working full-time say that they live paycheck to paycheck, and nearly three in four are in debt.

Given that access to nourishing food is one of the basic necessities of life – and made difficult because of the shutdown – grocers are well placed to help affected federal workers feed themselves and their loved ones. Here's how some grocers are helping during these tough times.


Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, No. 1 on Progressive Grocer's 2018 list of the top grocers in the United States, has committed $300,000 to support Feeding America's Shutdown Response Fund, the United Way’s United for U.S. Fund and the Coast Guard Foundation, to provide much-needed assistance during a time of increased demand for their services, particularly areas most affected by the government shutdown. Each organization will receive $100,000 from Walmart to support programs that provide relief to the more than 800,000 federal employees and others working without pay or furloughed.

"As the government shutdown continues, many impacted workers have turned to support organizations to help put meals on tables, pay utility bills and even cover health care costs," said Dan Bartlett, EVP of corporate affairs for Walmart. "While our support to food banks happens year-round with in-kind food donations from our stores, we felt it important to not only build on that commitment, but also offer extra support to our Coast Guard families, and to the United Way, who just yesterday launched the United for U.S. Fund to provide financial relief to those in affected communities."


Intending to support all those in its operating area affected by an unexpected loss of income, including, presumably, furloughed government workers, Southeastern grocer Publix Super Markets, No. 5 on PG's list of top grocers, has contributed $1 million to United Way to assist working people and their families.

"Our founder, George W. Jenkins, believed one of the most efficient ways to assist people was through giving to United Way, and we still believe that today," said Kelly Williams-Puccio, executive director for the Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer's charities division. "Our commitment to his vision continues through our dedication to offer people hope."


Wisconsin independent grocer Metcalfe's said that its three stand-alone stores – two in Madison and one in Wauwatosa – will work to assist local federal workers who are currently furloughed by offering the same 20 percent discount it gives its own employees. Federal employees simply display their government-issued federal worker identification to the cashier when checking out at any of the stores, and the discount will be applied.

"Our company works with a 'why' in mind for everything we do, and that is: To Connect & Enrich People, Our Community, and Beyond," said Tim Metcalfe, co-owner of the Madison-based grocer. "We believe helping those in need should be the responsibility of all members of our community, including businesses like ours." 

The discount is valid on purchases up to $200 through Jan. 31 or until the government shutdown ends, whichever happens first. It isn't valid at Metcalfe’s Dane County Regional Airport location or for online purchases.

Food Lion

Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic grocer Food Lion has donated nearly $18,000 in food and gift cards to local food bank and agency partners to help nourish hundreds of federal workers in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas who are affected by the partial government shutdown. Made through the grocer's Food Lion Feeds hunger relief platform, the donation is intended to help families during a time when they're faced with making tough choices on how to feed their families.

"Helping our neighbors in the towns and cities we serve is at the core of who we are and what we do at Food Lion," said Meg Ham, president of the Salisbury, N.C.-based division of grocery giant Ahold Delhaize USA, No. 4 on PG's top grocers list. "In addition to supporting food banks in the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas, we remain in close contact with all of our food bank partners in locations across our 10-state service area to ensure we are ready to assist with increased need in the communities we all serve."

Food Lion Feeds is donating 1,500 food boxes to the Maryland Food Bank. Food bank staff are planning to distribute the boxes to federal workers at pop-up events starting next Saturday in the Maryland region. Details will be available early next week on Food Lion and Maryland Food Bank social media channels.

Additionally, Food Lion Feeds is donating $10,000 in Food Lion gift cards to be distributed among Maryland Food Bank, one of its agencies – Action in Community Through Service – and Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank.

Other grocers in recent weeks that have been assisting government workers affected by the partial shutdown include:

  • The West Coast independent grocer that operates New Seasons Market and New Leaf Community Markets has begun offering a discount to furloughed and unpaid federal workers to ensure that they have access to fresh, quality food. Any customers who show their federal government identification card will receive a 15 percent discount on most items in any of New Seasons' Oregon, Washington and California stores, and New Leaf's Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, Calif., stores for the duration of the partial shutdown.
  • Mid-Atlantic grocer Weis Markets, which moved up store shipments of in-demand items to aid SNAP recipients, who have received their February benefits early due to the shutdown.
  • Jackson Whole Grocer, an independent grocer in Jackson, Wyo., which has offered help to struggling federal workers, providing, under its JWG Federal Worker Appreciation Program, a no-interest line of credit of up to $200 per week and a 10 percent discount to affected employees, with no payments required until the shutdown ends.
  • The Warfield IGA, in Warfield, Ky., which also has begun extending credit to federal workers.

Even manufacturer Kraft Foods opened a pop-up grocery store Jan. 16-20 in Washington, D.C., to support furloughed and unpaid government workers by helping them stock up on pantry staples. The store provided federal workers with government identification such products as Kraft Mac & Cheese, Kraft Natural Cheese, Kraft Singles, Kraft Salad Dressings, Kraft Mayo, and Kraft BBQ Sauce. In response, the company asked employees to pay it forward by donating to a charity or needy person when they can.

About the Author

Randy Hofbauer

Randy Hofbauer

Randy Hofbauer is the former digital and technology editor of Progressive Grocer. He has more than a decade of experience as a content strategist, researcher and marketer, almost all of it covering CPG retailing. His insights and work have been cited in a nu Read More

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