Whether you’re unable to find fresh fruit and vegetables at your local supermarket or simply can’t afford the risk of exposure to coronavirus by venturing out, the solution could be as close as the nearest computer or smart device. Record numbers of shoppers are going online to order produce that’s delivered right to their door.
But the sudden increase in demand has presented serious challenges—from backed-up orders to concern for the health and safety of employees and customers alike. And while online retailers are still the best alternative to going to the grocery store, many are scrambling to resolve these issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.
We’ve got a list of resources below. But first, here’s what you need to know.
Delays are to be expected, at least in the short term.
“We have capped orders at this time so that our supply chain can catch up and we can maintain our promise of a good experience to customers,” said Evan Lutz, CEO of Baltimore-based Hungry Harvest. Employees from every department have been pitching in around the clock to help fulfill orders, and the company is currently seeking temporary workers for immediate hire at their warehouse. Lutz anticipates they’ll be able to take people off the waiting list within the next few weeks.
Philadelphia-based Misfits Market is also looking to hire people to help meet the sudden demand. “If I had to pick one adjective to describe what’s going on across the board, it’s unprecedented,” said CEO Abhi Ramesh. “We’ve seen a massive spike in new customer requests over the past 10 days or so,” he added, estimating the company’s customer base has grown by roughly 300-400% since the beginning of March.
Similarly, Michael and Rebecca Winik, co-founders of New York-based OurHarvest, have seen over a fivefold increase in orders during the same timeframe. While they are currently sold out of delivery spots, they expect to open up more within a few days for new customers registered on their waiting list.
Melissa’s Produce, based in Los Angeles, is still taking on new customers, but warns of a slight delay in delivery. “Instead of getting there the next day, it may take two days to get there. That’s the only issue so far,” said Robert Schueller, director of public relations. “We’re just not Amazon.” Although they offer the largest variety of produce in the country and are able to ship nationwide, the cost may be prohibitive, depending on your location. “The organic box is a great deal if you’re in Southern California,” Schueller pointed out, “because the shipping is free.”
Health and safety is a priority for these services.
From frequent hand-washing and sanitization to wearing gloves and altering handoff procedures to allow for social distancing, food retailers have instituted new measures above and beyond the typical high standards for hygiene, cleanliness and food safety. In a recent Facebook post, FreshDirect announced touchless delivery service, meaning that no signature or bag collection is required, and encouraged e-tipping in lieu of cash.
In the meantime, employees across departments are pitching in to work around the clock, fulfilling orders as quickly as possible in warehouses across the country. “It’s hard, intensive, exhausting work,” Lutz said. To prevent overworking, Hungry Harvest has capped the number of hours staff can be on the job doing deliveries or in the warehouse.
To boost employees’ spirits, some companies are also providing free meals and financial incentives for going above and beyond. According to Ramesh, Misfits Market has even increased warehouse worker pay by $3 per hour. “They’re on the front lines here,” he explained, “and we want them to feel more financially secure.”
Rest assured that the people who work in online food delivery are acutely aware they may be the only reliable source of fresh fruit and vegetables for many Americans. In addition, many online retailers are partnering with organizations in the local community to donate produce to people in need.
“I’ve never seen the people on our team step up like the way they have,” Lutz reflected. Their current motto is simple: “Let’s do one thing really well. Let’s feed people.”
Online Retailers That Deliver To Your Door
FreshDirect is currently accepting new customers and delivers to most addresses in the following counties in New York and New Jersey: Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Nassau, Queens, Rockland, Staten Island, Suffolk, Westchester, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Union. You can learn more about its response to COVID-19 here.
Hungry Harvest serves Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, Greater Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey, Northern Delaware, South Florida, The Triangle Area and Charlotte in North Carolina and the Detroit Metro Area. You can sign up for its waitlist here and learn more about its response to COVID-19 here.
Imperfect Foods is currently accepting new customers but warns it may take up to two weeks to receive the first box. They serve most of the West South Central region, Midwest, Northeast and all along the West Coast. You can learn more about where it delivers to here and about its response to COVID-19 here.
Misfits Market is currently accepting new customers and serves Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, Ohio, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. You can learn more about its response to COVID-19 here.
OurHarvest serves the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens in New York City in addition to Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island. You can sign up for its waitlist by entering your zip code on their homepage.
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