How Quebec grocery stores are keeping people fed and safe in the era of COVID-19

Since the Quebec government first declared a public health emergency, grocery stores have been scrambling to adapt to tighter sanitary regulations and protect customers and workers, even while they're inundated by online grocery delivery requests.

Inundated by online orders, some stores ask for 48 hours' notice, while Metro says it can deliver in April

At Supermarché PA on Parc Avenue in Montreal, customers queue in a staggered line outside the store, and employees let in a few customers at a time. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

For 71-year-old George Malky, ordering groceries online is not part of his regular routine — but it's what many people are doing, as they change their lives to comply with the government's plea that they stay home as much as possible.

"What choice do I have?" asked Malky, who lives in Villeray. He plans to try his hand at online grocery shopping for the first time Thursday.

Since the Quebec government declared a public health emergency almost two weeks ago, grocery stores have been scrambling to adapt to tighter sanitary regulations, even as they strive to protect their own workers and they're inundated by online grocery delivery requests.

Many of Quebec's supermarkets are operating at reduced hours, in order to give them more time to clean surfaces and stock shelves.

But they're open, near the top of the list of essential services  — and in many cases, they're going beyond the call of duty to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and keep customers' bellies full.


George Malky, 71, who lives in Villeray, will try his hand at online grocery shopping for the first time on Thursday. (Submitted by George Malky)

The supermarket chain IGA is offering free online and phone grocery delivery for seniors aged 70 and older and for people with reduced mobility. When making online delivery orders, customers are asked to specify that they are in one of those categories.

Those who don't have access to the internet can call their local IGA grocery. To locate the closest store near you, check here.

The grocery chain says delivery times will be longer than usual due to the high volume of online orders, and some orders might be modified, based on the availability of certain products.

In-store shoppers are asked not to touch food unless they're planning to buy it and to pay by credit card or Interac, if possible, to avoid cash changing hands. That's on top of the now-ingrained rule to remain two metres away from other people.

Stores will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

The IGA Extra Famille in Viau said it received 325 online delivery requests on Tuesday — up from the usual 70 per week. For that store, it means wait times will be between 24 to 48 hours.

On Facebook, the Viau grocer asked people to take orders and shop for loved ones who may not be able to go into stores themselves. It also recommends making orders of $150 or more, to limit the number of trips people make to the store.

IGA also set up this email address to take orders:


The Metro grocery chain says it won't be able to make online deliveries until April, due to high demand, advising people only to turn to online delivery if they are under obligatory quarantine or over 70.

"The demand is too high to serve clients in a timely fashion," the company told Radio-Canada.

Supermarché PA

At Supermarché PA, which has several locations in Montreal and Laval, plexiglass screens have been set up at all cash registers, gloves are available for clients and staff, and hand-washing stations are mandatory at all stores.

The first hour after opening, from 7 to 8 a.m., is reserved for seniors to shop.

At the PA location on Parc Avenue in Montreal, employees are letting in customers a few at a time and managing the queue outside, where people are required to stagger themselves two metres apart.

One customer shopping for his 92-year-old grandmother Wednesday said the wait outside was 15 or 20 minutes.

The company is asking people to order online, and time slots are full for the next two days.


Provigo is devoting the hour between 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. to customers over 70 and those with reduced mobility, although the grocery chain is encouraging seniors to follow the Quebec government's advice to stay home as much as possible. Provigo is offering online delivery.

People are asked to pay by card as much as possible, and those who bring their own bags will be asked to pack supplies themselves. The 50-cent fee for plastic bags is being waived for the time being.

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