Students on grocers' front lines


One front line in our community’s virus fight is staffed by students.

Managers at North Scott Foods, Fareway and other grocery stores are offering shifts for all workers and report their students are eager to report for duty.

“We tell them when we can work, and they always say ‘yes,’” said Clayton Gonyo, at North Scott Foods.

Their experiences are far different from the social distancing, stay-at-home warnings heeded by most everyone else.

Gonyo and coworkers gather in back at each shift change to go over constant changes shaping their workplace.

“We huddle up at shift start. That’s where we’re reminded to wear gloves, constantly sanitize, and when we’re getting toilet paper in,” Cameron LaPage said. His household was out for a day until new stock arrived.

“Friday was the busiest day I ever worked,” he said.

Early fear and frustration have eased. Most staff have encountered impatient customers unaccustomed to leaving the store with a half-shopped list. In the past week, North Scott Foods’ staff found more tolerance and understanding.

“At first, we were just scared to even do  a handshake. It’s usually so friendly. Everyone knows everybody. Now I feel we’re very town-supported. It’s the one place left where people see each other,” Gonyo said.

Fareway Foods manager Adam Stephenson commended his entire staff, and said the students have been champs.

“I’ve got several of my high school employees take every extra shift I had. They’re working a lot of hours. I had kids working 40-plus. They dug in and helped out,” he said.

Both store managers assured the deliveries will continue and urged customers to remain patient. Stephenson said most products have returned, and NSP readers can expect to see ads and coupons continue.

“Our customers have been pretty understanding of the situation,” he said.

So have other retailers.

Stephenson said both Chick Fil A and Smokin’ Butt barbecue, Davenport, dropped off complimentary lunches to his crew last week.