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How Square Roots is Safely Delivering Food to Grocery Stores Around New York City

Square Roots | 03.30.20

Growing healthy, delicious food, while keeping our communities and employees safe, has always been a top priority at Square Roots. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become even more important. We operate indoor farms in New York and Michigan—and both states have issued executive orders closing all non-essential businesses. Only “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” (including farmers) are allowed to work and, even then, they are required to enforce strict social distancing protocols.

Square Roots team member Kris Liakos delivering produce around NYC.

In line with those orders, we have been able to quickly reconfigure our operations to ensure no one does any work within six feet of another person. This ensures the farm is a safe place to work, and we can grow food for people who need it, even if the process is now less efficient and our capacity is somewhat reduced.

But growing local, real food is only half of our business. We also have to get that food to people—working alongside high-impact non-profit organizations like ReThink Food and—in New York City—directly distributing our produce to almost 100 local grocery stores.

Local grocery stores and grocery workers are a critical part of the fabric of NYC—and they are working selflessly right now to make sure we have the things we need. So, just as we’ve reconfigured our operations inside the farms to ensure the highest levels of food-safety and people-safety, we’ve also done the same with our distribution and logistics operations—to ensure the safety of our team, and also the buyers and stockers and many other workers who make a retail store function.

During usual operations, the Square Roots delivery team not only delivers the produce, but they also work as brand ambassadors and key points of contact for our grocery partners, hosting events at stores and farmers markets, and talking to customers about indoor, urban farming. If you’ve been lucky enough to meet one of them around town, you know just how friendly and knowledgeable they are, and how much they believe in our mission to bring local, real food to people in cities. Safety is always a priority for our delivery teams, receiving proper training on riding our e-trikes, wearing helmets, and practicing food-safety protocol during events. And that diligence is being taken to a new level during COVID-19.

In light of Governor Cuomo’s “New York State on Pause Executive Order,” we’ve adjusted operations as follows:

  • Effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed:

    • As an agriculture and food production business growing crops for human consumption, certain Square Roots employees are designated as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” by the US Department of Homeland Security as well as the NY State executive order. This designation allows those employees, including our delivery team, to move freely in order to get to work and perform our essential duties.

  • Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations, or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time:

    • Our delivery teams have canceled or postponed all in-person events at grocery stores for the foreseeable future. (We’ve also cancelled all farm tours, but we will host a virtual farm tour on April 22—keep checking this blog for more info!) All of our employees have also been advised to adhere to state guidance around not attending any non-essential gatherings.

  • Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced and that businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet:

    • All Square Roots essential employees, including our distribution team, have been issued with emergency identification (physical and digital) that explains this designation. This ID will be willingly shown to any law enforcement officer if requested. We have also implemented social distancing protocols on our farms and in our offices, and any employees or other staff not absolutely required to manage our temporary, slimmed-down operation have been asked to stay at home on full pay.

    • Meanwhile, our delivery teams have been advised to maintain social distancing when visiting grocery stores and are proactively communicating with store managers about updated delivery protocol. In addition to proper social distancing, our delivery teams are wearing gloves and masks while working and sanitizing all delivery and trike surfaces before, during, and after each delivery.

  • Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders:

    • No Square Roots employee will find it “absolutely necessary” to take public transportation to report to work. We have provided other options—such as reimbursing anyone who is taking alternative modes of transportation, for example, using a car service.

  • Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health:

    • We developed a Coronavirus Safety Framework several weeks ago and, since then, any employee who has felt sick in any way has been directed to stay home, on full pay. In addition, every Designated Team member has their temperature taken with an infrared thermometer daily upon arrival to work. Anyone with an elevated temperature must go home immediately. Also, telehealth services are available through Square Roots’ benefits plans.

  • Use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes:

    • Our usual operations already put food-safety and people-safety first, and include rigorous sanitation practices. Our delivery trikes are also now being disinfected with sanitizers effective on COVID-19 before, during, and after use.

Well-run indoor farms like Square Roots bring heightened safety to food production and distribution, and we’ve now made the process even safer. And if you don’t want to (or can’t get to) a local store, you can also buy Square Roots produce online at OurHarvest and Amazon Fresh through Whole Foods Market. Remember to scan the QR code on the back of any package of Square Roots produce to access our Transparency Timeline and virtually meet your farmer. And, if you see our trike riders making deliveries in your neighborhood, give them a virtual high five for working to keep grocery stores stocked, safely!

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