Hy-Vee to Distribute 3 Million Masks to Shoppers

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Hy-Vee to Distribute 3 Million Masks to Shoppers

By Thad Rueter - 07/23/2020
Hy-Vee to Distribute 3 Million Masks to Shoppers
Hy-Vee does not have a mask mandate for shoppers but has one for workers.

The news these days pops with tension-filled stories about wearing masks inside food retail stores — stories often accompanied by videos of consumers lashing out at grocery workers or otherwise melting down. But here’s something of a different, more positive flavor: Hy-Vee will start handing out more than 3 million free masks to shoppers.

As part of an initiative called “Mask It Up To Shut COVID Down. It’s Your Choice,” Hy-Vee will start distributing the pandemic protection gear on Monday. “Employees will be stationed at the front doors of all stores to hand out masks to customers who are not wearing one prior to shopping,” the food retailer said. “Customers will also see signage, employee attire, and other reminders around the store about the educational campaign.”

Hy-Vee said it has required workers to wear face masks since late April, though some workers donned masks before that. As of earlier this week, Hy-Vee reportedly had not set a chain-wide mask mandate for shoppers, saying it didn’t want to frustrate consumers who cannot wear masks for medical reasons.

Pandemic Recognition

Even so, earlier this month Hy-Vee earned recognition as one of top U.S. food retailers when measured by pandemic response. Food retailers were judged by such factors as taking steps to keep products on shelves and staying committed to keeping American consumers fed and happy during this time of spreading disease.

The last few weeks have brought more pressure from consumers, politicians, health authorities, retail trade groups and food retail employees and their union representatives to set mask mandates. A wave of food retailers — including Walmart and other heavyweights — said they would require shoppers to wear masks (with some exceptions for people with medical problems) while others have decided to just encourage shoppers to do so. The mask issue — along with food retail reactions to the ongoing protests against racial injustice — have divided shoppers, according to recent research, though the winds have turned in favor of mask mandates as some areas of the U.S. suffer fresh coronavirus spikes.

Employee-owned Hy-Vee operates more than 265 retail stores across eight Midwestern states. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company is No. 33 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food retailers in the United States.