How East Bay grocery stores are responding to COVID-19

As the pandemic continues, markets have been addressing new challenges to keep stores stocked, while maintaining safety for its customers and workers.

A Monterey Market employee wipes down carts and baskets with disinfectant at the entrance of the store.
A Monterey Market employee wipes down carts and baskets with disinfectant at the entrance of the store. Photo: Pete Rosos

Since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s and Alameda County’s shelter-in-place orders took effect, grocery store employees have been tirelessly working to serve the community’s needs, while putting their own health at risk.

As the pandemic continues, more markets have been addressing new challenges to keep stores stocked, while maintaining safety for its customers and workers. Every grocer’s approach is slightly different, but we’ve compiled a (non-comprehensive) list of how some popular East Bay grocery stores are responding to the coronavirus crisis.

Note that health recommendations and store policies are changing regularly and rapidly. We advise you to keep updated with the latest food safety guidelines from trusted health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Contact stores for the most up-to-date information on their practices.

The line waiting to get into Berkeley Bowl (on Oregon Street) shortly after 10 a.m. Photo: Pete Rosos

Berkeley Bowl

Known as one of the East Bay’s most crowded grocery stores even before coronavirus panic-buying began, Berkeley Bowl has quickly pivoted to operate in a more orderly, controlled fashion for the safety of workers and shoppers. Both stores are now open 10 a.m.-7 p.m., daily, to give workers more time to clean, sanitize, and stock their shelves. The dedicated senior citizen shopping hour is 9-10 a.m., daily. Berkeley Bowl is limiting the number of people who can enter stores at a time and limiting sales of items like toilet paper and sanitizers. In addition, it has temporarily shuttered the Café Grill, Deli Food Service counter, fresh juice and coffee bar, and has canceled all in-store demos and samples. Berkeley Bowl provides sanitizers next to shopping carts and even supplies disposable gloves for customers. Workers regularly wipe and disinfect handles, counters, doorknobs and other high-touch or traffic surfaces. Every hour, registers and pin pads are wiped down. On March 24, Berkeley Bowl management agreed to give workers $2/hr “hazard pay” raise until April 18. Berkeley Bowl, 2020 Oregon St. (at Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley; Berkeley Bowl West, 920 Heinz Ave. (at Ninth Street), Berkeley


Community Foods Market

The grocery store in West Oakland is now open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. During the first intense week of shelter-in-place, Community Foods ran out of many non-perishable goods, but it has recently restocked its shelves. The store has temporarily suspended in-store samples and demos, closed the Front Porch Café and the prepared hot foods section in the market, but is pivoting to offering pre-packed foods. The market has increased daily sanitizing of surfaces in the store and is now offering sanitizing wipes to customers to wipe down cart handles. The store limits the amount people can purchase for some items, such as toilet paper, water, eggs and bread. Community Foods Market provides a 10% discount on Wednesdays to those using EBT/CalFresh/SNAP. Because there are many seniors living in the immediate area, the market is fundraising to add delivery to seniors and to expand the EBT/CalFresh/SNAP discount to 50%. Employees are required to follow procedures such as wearing gloves, maintaining a minimum of 6 feet from customers, and staying home if ill. Community Foods Market, 3105 San Pablo Ave. (at Myrtle Street), Oakland

Mandela Grocery Cooperative

The worker-owned natural foods grocery store in West Oakland is currently open 9 a.m.-6 p.m., daily. The store reserves the first hour of business for seniors and those with compromised immune systems. Worker-owners and shoppers are expected to follow social distancing practices, and the store has added markers at check-out stations to guide people in line to maintain proper distance. While the store has not imposed limits on items, signs ask shoppers not to hoard high-demand items, like toilet paper. Mandela Grocery hopes to roll out a pick-up and delivery service soon. As always, the market offers 50% off fresh fruits and vegetables for those on SNAP/EBT/CalFresh benefits buying California-grown produce (most of the produce at Mandela is from California). Mandela Grocery Cooperative, 1430 Seventh St. (at Mandela Parkway), Oakland

Market Hall on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Photo: Pete Rosos

Market Hall

Market Hall has two locations: in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood and on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Rockridge Market Hall is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Berkeley Market Hall is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday; both stores reserve 9-9:30 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, for those 65 and older and people with underlying health conditions. Market Hall abides by the CDC’s recommended best practices on social distancing and cleaning procedures. Employees clean every basket and grocery cart after each use, and wipe down machines and pin pads after each use. Rockridge Market Hall has added “touch free shopping” options (online ordering and curbside pickup) for its prepared foods, and is looking to add more items from its eight partner businesses, including Market Hall Bakery, Hapuku Fish, Highwire Coffee Roasters, and Wildflower & Fern. Its regular online shop ships nationwide. Market Hall Berkeley now offers delivery of a selection of its sandwiches and prepared foods on Caviar. Market Hall Rockridge, 5655 College Ave. (at Shafter Avenue), Oakland; Market Hall Berkeley, 1786 Fourth St. (at Delaware Street), Berkeley

Monterey Market

Monterey Market has reduced its hours; it’s now open daily from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., with a dedicated shopping hour from 8-9 a.m., for those 60 and older. The store limits the number of customers allowed inside at a time, and maintains 6-feet between people waiting in line outside. Employees at the store’s entrance clean each cart and basket before handing them over to customers, and the market provides hand sanitizer stations inside. Monterey Market maintains its full produce section, but has purchase limits on high demand items such as toilet paper (one pack of four rolls per person) and flour. Monterey Market, 1550 Hopkins St. (near California Street), Berkeley


Natural Grocery Company

Worker-owned Natural Grocery Company has locations in El Cerrito and Berkeley. It has reduced hours to 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at its stores; but seniors can arrive as early as 9:30 a.m. to shop at the El Cerrito market. Natural Grocery Company provides disposable gloves at entryways, and advises customers wear them while they shop. The stores sanitize carts between every use, limit the number of people who can shop at the same time, and honors the six-feet distancing rule in the lines outside. In addition, the stores limit some staple items such as milk, eggs and toilet paper. Berkeley Natural Grocery,1336 Gilman St. (at Northside Avenue), Berkeley; El Cerrito Natural Grocery, 10367 San Pablo Ave. (at Sacramento Avenue), El Cerrito

99 Ranch Market

You may notice workers at 99 Ranch Market, an Asian grocery store chain, wear masks and gloves, but this practice has been in place since before the pandemic began. While some 99 Ranch stores have limited their hours, the location in Richmond is still open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., daily. The first hour of business during weekdays is reserved for seniors (60+), expectant mothers, persons with disabilities and immune-compromised people. Ranch 99 limits the number of shoppers in the stores at one time and mandates social distancing throughout the store and in the checkout lines (a layer of plexiglass is up at each cash register). It has temporarily closed dine-in services, food sampling and demos (takeout of hot foods are still available), and has added hand sanitizer for workers and customers. Although 99 Ranch has an online shop, at the time, most items are out of stock. Starting in March, workers have been given a temporary $2/hour raise over a four-week period, according to a letter from CEO Alice Chen. The same letter states stores use hospital-grade cleaning solutions in high traffic areas, including shelves. 99 Ranch Market, 3288 Pierce St., Richmond

The bulk foods section at the Andronico’s Community Markets on Shattuck Avenue is closed. Photo: Pete Rosos

Safeway and Andronico’s Community Markets

Safeway and Andronico’s Community Markets are open 7 a.m.-9 p.m., daily. The stores invite senior citizens, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems to shop from 7 a.m.-9 a.m., every Tuesday and Thursday. All Safeway stores have increased cleaning, especially restrooms, check stands and counters, and have added cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations inside. Stores may have limits on high-demand items (hand sanitizer, household cleaners). Safeway offers grocery delivery, but it should be noted that due to high demand, delivery can be delayed. On March 23, Safeway reached an agreement with UFCW 5, the union representing its Northern California workers (including its Andronico’s employees) with a contract that specified new conditions to protect workers during the coronavirus outbreak. The agreement gives $2/hour raise for all employees for a period of at least two weeks, allows a more flexible schedule for those with children at home, expands paid sick leave and implements sanitation best practices. Some stores have started installing plexiglass at cash registers. Safeway, check website for locations throughout the East Bay; Andronico’s Community Markets, 1550 Shattuck Ave. (at Cedar Street), Berkeley; 1850 Solano Ave. (at Fresno Avenue), Berkeley 

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s, one of the markets that’s been regularly mobbed by panic-buyers, is open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m., daily. While Trader Joe’s does not have a separate hour for seniors, it offers a separate line for seniors from 9-10 a.m. Trader Joe’s limits the number of people who can shop in its stores at the same time, has temporarily stopped in-store samples, and has increased cleaning of high-touch items and areas, including shopping carts and baskets, bathrooms and check-out stations. Trader Joe’s says it provides additional paid sick leave for workers, and gives cashiers time to regularly wash their hands. Trader Joe’s, 1885 University Ave. (at MLK Jr. Way), Berkeley; 3250 Lakeshore Ave. (at Wesley Way), Oakland; 5727 College Ave. (between Miles and Oak Grove avenues), Oakland; 2217 S. Shore Center, Alameda; 225 El Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito

Michael, a Whole Foods employee sets out a stack of disinfected baskets for shoppers entering the store at Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.
Michael, a Berkeley Whole Foods employee sets out a stack of disinfected baskets for shoppers entering the Telegraph Avenue store. Photo: Pete Rosos

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods in Berkeley and Oakland has changed its hours to 9 a.m.-8 p.m., so workers have time to clean and restock the store. Dedicated shopping time for people 60 years and older is from 8-9 a.m., daily. The Amazon-owned grocery chain has currently suspended samples, demos, hot foods, salad bars, soups and self-serve pizza, and has closed its restaurant seating and taproom. Stores have added hand sanitizer stations near checkout. While Whole Foods offers delivery through Amazon Prime, but inventory has been low and delivery is often unavailable due to increased demand. Whole Foods has given workers unlimited sick time during this period and a $2/hour raise through the end of April and increased their overtime pay to double their hourly wage. Those under quarantine or who have COVID-19 will receive additional paid time off of two weeks. Whole Foods Market, 3000 Telegraph Ave. (at Ashby Avenue), Berkeley; 1025 Gilman St.(at Ninth Street), Berkeley; 230 Bay Place (at Harrison Street), Oakland