Ottawa

Stores offering the vulnerable their own time to shop

A growing number of grocery stores and pharmacies in Ottawa are offering up their first hour of shopping to seniors and people with disabilities as the city tries to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially among the most vulnerable.

Many supermarkets, pharmacies devoting 1st hour

Some grocery stores and pharmacies are offering special hours at the start of the day for seniors and other vulnerable groups to shop. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

A growing number of grocery stores and pharmacies in Ottawa are offering up their first hour of shopping to seniors and people with disabilities as the city tries to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially among the most vulnerable.

On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency, closing many businesses. Other stores have closed voluntarily, but supermarkets and drug stores remain open.

Grocery chain Sobeys said it will devote its first hour after opening to customers who require extra attention, such as seniors.

Farm Boy, which is owned by Empire, the same parent company as Sobeys, said it too will open stores an hour early most days for seniors, pregnant women and those with disabilities, starting Friday.

"The government has made it clear that those most at risk, including seniors, should stay at home and encourages family, friends and neighbours to help support them during these challenging times and we highly encourage this," the company wrote in a statement to CBC.

"But for those that have to get out for essential supplies, we want to make shopping a little easier."

Farm Boy stores will open at 7 a.m. Monday to Saturday, and at 8 a.m. on Sundays.

Ross' Your Independent Grocer in Barrhaven is opening its doors primarily to shoppers who are over the age of 65, or who have mobility issues or compromised immune systems, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. until further notice, the company wrote in an email to CBC Ottawa. 

The store does not offer home delivery, but customers can order online and an employee will deliver their groceries to their car.

A Barrhaven grocery store is limiting clients to the older set for an hour each morning to protect this vulnerable segment of the population during the COVID-19 pandemic. 6:01

Loblaw Companies Limited said many of its nearly 2,500 grocery stores and Shoppers Drug Mart locations across the country are either dedicating their first hour after opening to seniors and those with disabilities, or opening earlier for them. Customers are asked to contact individual locations for specific information.

The service will be offered Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. at Loblaw locations, while Real Canadian Superstore locations will take part on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Shoppers Drug Mart said it will also offer seniors discounts during that first hour, in addition to all day Thursdays.

The company said both Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies offer free prescription deliveries, and have lowered prices on items for home delivery as well as eliminating fees for delivery and pickup.

Rexall Pharmacy Group will also be offering the first opening hour to customers over the age of 55 and those with disabilities, starting Wednesday. The company will also offer its seniors discount each day until 10 a.m.

"The health and safety of our customers and patients remains a priority for us and is aligned with our focus of caring for Canadians' health," Andrew Forgione with McKesson Canada, Rexall's parent company, wrote in an email to CBC Ottawa.

Forgione said Rexall also offers prescription delivery through its website. Rexall has 16 stores throughout Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

As Canadians avoid gatherings and crowds amid the COVID-19 outbreak, grocery stores present a challenge as people stock up and pick shelves bare. 2:07

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