News from the Orcas Food Co-op

  • Wed Mar 18th, 2020 10:11am
  • Life

Submitted by the Orcas Food Co-op

In light of the growing crisis, Orcas Food Co-op management and staff have been hard at work putting together plans for preventing the spread of Covid-19/Coronavirus as well as addressing some of the social impacts that are arising as a result.

As a grocery store and a community hub, our Co-op is in the unique position of offering essential services for our community while also minimizing risk to our staff, members, and shoppers. Our co-op prides itself on its cleanliness and food safety standards, as well as our ability for creative and collaborative problem-solving. We want you to know that we are taking the situation very seriously and are taking multiple steps to continue providing the services that you need in a safe and clean environment while caring for our staff, and being a responsible member of our community.

We will continue to keep our members and community updated and informed as the situation evolves and additional steps are taken. Below are several steps that we are taking right now, some of which are still in development. If you have any questions, concerns or ideas, please email

Staff Health Policies

Staying home when sick

Employees are required to stay home and take paid sick time as soon as they notice any symptoms of being sick, even if the symptoms do not appear to indicate Covid-19.

We are asking employees to be very diligent about this. As a result, there may come a time when we are short-staffed and have to think creatively to fully operate the store. We will also be trying to hire additional staff and do additional cross-training of staff in multiple departments in order to make the team as resilient as possible.

Paid Sick Leave

In order to support staff in taking every precaution possible to not spread sick germs, as long as the Covid-19 concerns persist, we will be providing emergency paid sick leave above and beyond the standard sick leave. All of the hours that an employee is unable to work will be covered. This will ensure that no Co-op employees have to choose between staying home when they should and being able to pay their bills.

Cleanliness and Sanitation

Rigorous Cleaning Practices

Ensuring employees are vigilant about handwashing;

Stepping up cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces;

More frequent cleanings of high-impact/high-touch areas (i.e. registers, shopping carts, doors);

Reinforcing existing precautionary sanitary measures.

Sanitation Station

Set up at the end of the Produce end cap, near the registers, the Sanitation Station includes 1) Spray hand sanitizer, both scented and unscented; 2) Disposable gloves; 3) Sanitizing wipes.

We will provide sanitizer with and without essential oils for our customers who are sensitive to fragrances or essential oils.

We are asking that customers please utilize the sanitation station before shopping and handling product.

With the spray, please spray front and back of hands with several pumps, and rub hands briskly together for several seconds until hands are dry. This ensures best sanitizing effects. (Please remember that when possible, washing hands frequently with plain old soap and water is best!)

Handwashing Station (in development)

We will be setting up a customer hand-washing station at the Co-op that will have warm water, soap and paper towels. We will keep you posted once we have an exact ETA for this.


Out of an abundance of caution, we have discontinued bulk salad mix, bulk spinach, and bulk arugula. These items will now be sold pre-bagged.

All produce staff are now required to wear gloves while handling produce and are asked to change gloves often.


Bulk scoops and tongs are removed from bins and sanitized after close every night.

Bin lids and handles will be wiped down with sanitizer daily.

Gloves will be provided for customers wishing to wear them while shopping bulk.

What you can do

Plan your purchase so you can get everything you need in fewer trips. Less trips to town and to the store = less risk

Use your elbow to push the handicap door button to enter the co-op rather than using the door handle.

Use the sanitation station!

Make sure you wash or sanitize your hands AFTER shopping as well as before.

Let us know when you see flaws or areas for improvement in our cleanliness and sanitation systems.

Delivery Service

We are quickly working on developing a coordinated volunteer-driven grocery delivery plan in order to be able to safely get groceries (and potentially other supplies) to community members who are quarantined at home.

We are in conversation with other local service orgs exploring ways to collaborate. If we combine efforts it will surely be more efficient than having several efforts going on at once. The idea currently is to have a large list of volunteer drivers and to sign people up for different days of deliveries to various parts of the island. Someone could do several deliveries at once to one end of the island at a consistent time of day. Drivers can be provided with a volunteer discount at the Co-op as a token of appreciation for their efforts.

Co-op staff and/or Member volunteers can likely do the actual shopping for folks, putting groceries into bags and preparing them for pickup (for no extra charge), and then the drivers would pick up and sign off for them. If the customer has a charge account then the purchase can be charged to the account and a receipt emailed to them. Otherwise, payments could be taken over the phone. While there are a lot of details to sort out, we feel confident that we will be able to roll out some version of this in the very near future.

There are a lot of other needs in terms of getting things to people who need them on the island, from meals for seniors and kids, to medical supplies. For the most part, various organizations are already working on these other needs, but we will be looking for ways to coordinate and collaborate in order to not re-invent the wheel and to enhance and build on each other’s efforts. If you would like to sign up as a volunteer, or if you are part of an organization that would like to collaborate please e-mail Stay tuned for more info to come!

Prep Your Pantry

Order by March 20 for delivery March 24

With the increased need for social distancing, it is important for everyone to limit trips to town, and, as much as we love seeing you, that means limiting trips to the grocery store as well. In addition to buying more groceries at once and taking fewer trips to the store, utilizing our special order program to stock up on staple foods and other supplies can save you money and set you up for success should you have to stay home for 2-3 weeks or longer. During Prep Your Pantry, Co-op Members receive an additional discount, paying the published catalog price on non-perishable items ordered from United Natural Foods (UNFI), our main supplier. While special orders can be placed any week, we are offering an additional 10% discount for orders placed for the March 24th delivery to help you Prep Your Pantry. Now is a great time to make sure that you are stocked up with emergency food supplies. Please see complete details and Prep Your Pantry instructions at the bottom of this email.

Stay up to date on the latest health news and recommendations

San Juan County Health and Community Services

San Juan County COVID-19 Resource Page

San Juan County Emergency Preparedness & Response

San Juan County Emergency Management

Washington State Department Of Health

Hand Sanitizer Recipe

It’s easy to make your own hand sanitizer at home with just a few ingredients, most of which you can find at the Co-op.

You will need:

2 ounce spray bottle

5 drops vitamin E oil (optional, helps keep hands soft)

3 tablespoons 190 proof vodka or rubbing alcohol

5 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops tea tree essential oil

1 tablespoon filtered water

Mix ingredients well in spray bottle and use on front and backs of hands.

Prep Your Pantry is our annual disaster preparedness special order sale where all OFC members have the opportunity to receive straight catalog pricing on all non-perishable UNFI products. Normally, special order pricing is calculated by adding a 10% margin mark-up for members and 25% margin mark-up for non-members to all regularly marked catalog prices. Please note that UNFI discounts do not apply.

Order by March 20th for delivery March 24th

We are offering a Prep Your Pantry (PYP) special order discount opportunity for our members for one delivery only. No rain-checks will be issued on UNFI out of stocks. Please note that warehouses are experiencing shortages nationwide and we have had a high number of out of stock items in the last several weeks. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that UNFI will deliver the items on your order. Non-perishable UNFI special orders placed between Saturday, March 14th until noon on Friday, March 20th will receive the Prep Your Pantry discount. Please remember that Prep Your Pantry is only for non-perishable items. Perishable items ordered during this order period will not be entered and will have to be re-ordered the following week. This is to allow our full staff and volunteer capacity to be focused on Prep Your Pantry orders.

The delivery from UNFI will be Tuesday, March 24th. We are expecting a high number of orders and appreciate your patience with us as we sort through the many pallets to compile your order. We could use a few extra hands on delivery day, March 24th. If you would like to lend a hand on delivery day to help with the sorting please email

All special orders should be cut and pasted from the UNFI online catalog into an email and sent to or hand-written on he special order clipboard in the store.

Here is where you can browse the UNFI catalog online.

Web Address:

Username: Orcasspecialorders

Password: Cooperative138

*password is case sensitive

Please note that if there is a letter in the “Disc.” column, you will need to click on it to see the actual catalog price of the product. UNFI discounts do not apply to special orders.

Want some ideas for what to order?

This list was compiled by Co-op Board Member, Tony Grosinger & Co-op Operations Manager, Natalie Menacho. What’d we miss?

Cooking Oil (coconut, olive, etc.)


Sweeteners (Honey, Maple Syrup, Sugar, etc.)

Chocolate (comfort food goes a long way!)

Bulk Grains (Rolled Oats, Quinoa, Rice, etc.)

Bulk Dried Beans (Black, Garbanzo, Lentils, etc.)

Dried Pasta

Dried Fruits and Snacks




Broths & Bouillon

Canned Foods (soups, pasta sauce, beans, fruits, veggies, applesauce, etc.)

Powdered Milk

Coffee & Tea


Feminine Hygiene Products

Toilet Paper

Wellness Supplements (vitamin c, immune booster, etc)

First Aid

Our recommendation is to order the things you already eat. It is always important to rotate your pantry items to avoid spoilage. Think about what items you find comforting and you ENJOY eating. Natural disasters are typically quite stressful. Do yourself a favor and stockpile items that will fill you with a sense of gratitude and relief.

Also, if we’re talking about food…it’s also good to thin about WATER! Do you have water jugs? What would happen if water was no longer running from your tap? Just like food, water needs to be rotated for freshness. We recommend purchasing BPA-free water jugs to fill up at home.

Thank you for all you do to keep yourself and your community safe, healthy, and well fed!

Your Co-op Team