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What you need to know about buying food (and booze) during the shutdown

How to stay well-fed during the shutdown.

Vincent Finazzo, Owner and founder of Riverwards Produce, stocks the shelves, as Marsha Nishi Mullan shops at his Philadelphia store.
Vincent Finazzo, Owner and founder of Riverwards Produce, stocks the shelves, as Marsha Nishi Mullan shops at his Philadelphia store.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

Stay-at-home orders in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have limited operations for thousands of businesses. And with that, the options and methods for buying food (and booze) have shifted. Here’s what you need to know:

Where can I buy food?

Supermarkets and big box stores will remain open, as will pharmacies, discount stores, mini-markets, and specialty food stores, plus any store that sells frozen products. In addition, many restaurants have expanded their pickup and delivery options to try to stay afloat during the shutdown.

How does the stay-at-home order affect my takeout and delivery orders?

Delivery orders remain unchanged, but the process for buying takeout has changed slightly. In Pennsylvania, customers can’t enter a restaurant to place their order, nor order at a window. Instead, food orders must be placed ahead of time, by phone, online, or via another no-contact method (like a drive-through). Customers can still enter the premises to pay for and pick up food, however. The measure is meant to prevent lines from forming or people from congregating while they wait for food.

Will my local bodega stay open?

Yes, they’re crucial to Philadelphia’s food infrastructure. Along with convenience and dollar stores, gas stations, and newsstands, corner stores and bodegas comprise 66% of Philadelphia’s food retailers — big box stores and supermarkets make up just 6%. (Pharmacies account for 15%. Farmers markets, mobile produce vendors, and produce stores comprise 7%.)

Will the farmers markets continue?

Yes, with some adjustments. The Clark Park, Headhouse, and Fitler Square farmers markets, which are run by the Food Trust, will continue to operate. Vendor tables will be spaced at least 6 feet apart, hand-washing stations will be set up throughout each market, and only farmers may touch the produce (customers can point at what they want). As needed, staff will help with crowd control, forming customers into appropriately spaced lines.

The Rittenhouse, Chestnut Hill, and Bryn Mawr farmers markets, run by Farm to City, will also continue, but items must be preordered and prepaid through the participating vendors, and pickup times will be assigned based on last name. Organizers ask that only one per person per household retrieve orders. Find the list of participating vendors at Farm to City’s site. The University City and Media markets, also run by Farm to City, are closed until further notice.

The Clark Park farmers market is located at 43rd and Baltimore and runs Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Headhouse market, at Second and Lombard and runs Sundays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Fitler Square market is located at 23rd and Pine and runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Rittenhouse market runs Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon at 18th and Walnut. The Chestnut Hill Market is open Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon on Winston Road between Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane. Bryn Mawr’s market runs Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon in the Amtrak parking lot on Lancaster Avenue between Morris Avenue and North Bryn Mawr Avenue.

Should I expect changes in my grocery store’s operations?

While grocery stores and markets remain open, some — including Wegmans and Walmart — have reduced hours to allow for deep-cleaning and restocking. In addition, some stores, including Acme and ShopRite, have started to limit purchases for items in low quantities, such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has instructed grocery stores to limit the number of customers allowed in their stores to 50% of their approved capacity. Customers and employees must also wear masks when shopping, and erect physical barriers between customers and cashiers and baggers where possible.

Giant instated a daily senior shopping hour — meaning only customers 60 and older may shop between 6 and 7 a.m. each morning — as did Whole Foods stores and Acme Markets. Acme is reserving Monday through Friday mornings from 7 to 9 a.m. for vulnerable shoppers such as senior citizens, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems.

Smaller operations, such as Di Bruno Bros. and Riverwards Produce, have limited the number of customers allowed in the store at once, in order to maintain a safe social distance. Weavers Way locations are offering home delivery, no-contact delivery, and curbside pickup, and have pared back hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to allow for cleaning and restocking.

What if I’m a senior or immunocompromised?

Many grocery stores have started providing hours just for shoppers 60 years and older and people who are immunocompromised. Here’s when and where you can go if you fall into that category:

  1. Giant: 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. every day, for 60+ and the immunocompromised. Find your local store at

  2. Acme: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every weekday, for people over 60 and those with compromised immune systems. Find a store at

  3. Walmart: An hour before a store normally opens every Tuesday, for the 60+ group. Find a store near you at

  4. Target: An hour before normal store opening every Wednesday, for seniors and people with health conditions. Find your local store at

  5. Dollar General: The first hour they are open every day, for senior citizens. Find a store at

  6. Whole Foods: Seniors will have exclusive access to the store an hour before opening. For most Whole Foods, this means the hour between 7 and 8 a.m.

Can I still get groceries delivered? From whom?

Yes. Grocery delivery services like Instacart (which works with Acme and Di Bruno Bros.), Peapod (Giant Food Stores’ partner), Mercato (Reading Terminal Market), and GoPuff plan to continue operations. However, many delivery times are booked up, so put in orders well in advance of when you want them to arrive.

Is delivery really safer than going to the store myself?

In the opinion of James E. Rogers, Consumer Reports’ director of food safety research and testing and a former research microbiologist for the U.S. Army, grocery delivery does limit your exposure to potential infection. “If you’re going to the grocery store, you don’t know who else is in there with you,” Rogers said. “We know there’s not 100% compliance of fellow shoppers doing what they should be doing to minimize not only their exposure to the virus, but their exposing us to whatever they’re carrying.

“In my own personal home, we get delivery as much as we can,” Rogers said.

“Contactless” delivery, in which the driver and recipient do not interact, has become increasingly popular. As of Tuesday, all Giant grocery deliveries will be contactless. DoorDash and Caviar will begin making no-contact delivery the default drop-off method this week.

Do I need to worry about getting coronavirus from food deliveries?

“So far there’s been no documented transfer of this virus from food to people,” Rogers said. “All the information is suggesting that there is no risk from getting coronavirus from any food that you’re being delivered or you’re purchasing at a restaurant.”

If you’re still concerned about the virus being on hard surfaces of packages or containers, Rogers said you can wipe them with warm, soapy water. Consumer Reports suggests thoroughly washing greens and vegetables under running water; use a scrub brush for hard items like citrus and root vegetables.

If I go grocery shopping in person, what safety precautions should I take?

First and foremost, wash your hands before and after, and try not to touch your face in between. Rogers strongly recommends going to the store in the morning, when there are fewer customers. Use sanitary wipes to clean off shopping carts (grocery stores often provide them).

Rogers recommends washing cloth grocery bags after every use, and spraying reusable plastic bags with disinfectant in between uses — and not necessarily for coronavirus. “There’s still food-borne pathogens in the room that we have to worry about in addition to the coronavirus,” he said.

My kids’ school is closed. Where can I get them breakfast and lunch?

The Philadelphia school district has made 30,000 meals available for students to pick up for breakfast and lunch. The shelf-stable meals are available at 80-plus locations in the city on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Six grab-and-go meals will be available (three breakfasts and three lunches) per child.

I belong to a CSA. Will I still get my share?

Yes, but maybe not as scheduled. CSAs like Lancaster Farm Fresh report they’re still operating normally, though pickup locations have had to postpone due to the shutdown. Fishadelphia has postponed its next pickup but expects to tack on an additional pickup at the end of its spring season. Philly Foodworks, which partners with local producers such as Greensgrow Farms, report that while certain items may be sold out, they continue to operate and restock as fast as possible.

Where can I buy booze?

Pennsylvania’s State Stores have been closed. New Jersey’s liquor stores (which are privately owned and operated) continue to be open (but only until 8 p.m., per Gov. Murphy’s order). Pennsylvania’s beer distributors were allowed to remain open, with restrictions on hours and operations — think curbside pickup, limits on the number of customers allowed inside at once.

Local distilleries, wineries, and breweries have been allowed to stay open. They’re also able to do pickup (and delivery, more on that later), but normal operations — tastings, growler fills, cocktails — are off the table, and business hours vary from place to place. Most distilleries and breweries are posting info on their social media channels and websites; for wineries, Pennsylvania Wines’ website is a good starting point, but call beforehand to confirm hours.

Pennsylvania supermarkets with licenses to sell beer and wine are unaffected by the order, and high-volume grocery stores that get direct shipments can replenish their supply with the state.

Many restaurants can sell beer and wine, in sealed bottles or crowlers, to go. However, smaller bottle shops and restaurants haven’t been able to restock wine through the shuttered Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Fileccia says the PRLA is waiting to hear whether the PLCB will resupply those smaller vendors (which would be a boon to small businesses).

Can I get booze delivered?

State Stores are no longer accepting orders for home delivery, and grocery stores can’t put beer and wine in your Instacart order. (GoPuff can deliver beer.) However, Pennsylvania’s distilleries, wineries, and breweries can deliver. Each has its own system and coverage area; check social media and respective websites for details.

In addition, some bottle shops, including East Passyunk’s Bottle Shop, can deliver. Another example is Quicksip, which covers a broad swath of Philadelphia.

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