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Harmony Food Co-op: Staying Connected and Safe - a Conversation with Colleen Bakken

Minnesotans are sheltering in place to slow the spread of Covid-19. This means we mostly stay home. We are allowed to go out to a few places – to get medicines, or gas, or groceries. Grocery workers are among those who don’t stay home. In fact, Minnesota grocery workers are classified as “emergency personnel.”

Colleen Bakken is General Manager of Harmony Food Co-op in Bemidji. She talked with Maggie Montgomery about how the “new normal” is affecting the co-op, and the steps they’re taking to keep their customers and staff safe. You can listen to their entire conversation below.

Colleen talked about how the food distribution system works and why there are shortages of a few products, but also assured us that there is not a food shortage. After the initial rush to fill pantrys, "we are seeing more product come in consistently."

She also said her staff at Harmony Food Co-op is meeting together more often than usual these days. “We talk a lot about our service to community and that being part of our deep mission that is really embodied right now. In one respect this feels entirely normal because it’s what we’re used to doing. In other respects there are all these reminders that it is very different. Reminders from all the sanitation safeguards that we’ve put in place for customers; keeping everyone safe and everyone healthy. It’s those reminders that make it different.”

How can shoppers help? For the co-op, as for other grocery stores, physical distancing is the number one concern. “Social distancing is really physical distancing,” Colleen explained. “This is about education for all of us… We’re used to walking right up to a person or reaching over them. We’re trying to find ways - true to us - that are really friendly to say ‘Hey, let me get out of your way’ or ‘How can I help you’ - that reinforce physical distancing for everyone.”

Colleen Bakken writes a blog for Harmony. There you can learn about Harmony’s Grocery Buddy program for people who are at-risk, vulnerable, or sick. You can also read about the measures Harmony is taking to keep customers and staff safe during Covid-19. Harmony’s website is: harmonyfoods.coop