By: Dan Ratner, Senior Director, Member Services, FMI
I’m new here.
In late February, (only two weeks into the job) I was assigned to the Crisis Management Team, a cross-departmental group focused on the looming coronavirus outbreak. It was just a month after I joined the FMI team in the headquarters office that I was told, along with the rest of the staff, to work from home indefinitely. Since then, what I have witnessed is, put simply, awe-inspiring.
At times, it was like I was in the Situation Room at the White House listening in on the latest reports from the “front lines” as grocers were battling parking lot gridlock, managing endless checkout lines, and applying logistical remedies to imposed crowd restrictions and social distancing rules on the fly.
There were calls and messages from the White House, federal agencies, and major trade associations coming in at all hours of the day and night asking FMI leaders and subject matter experts to weigh in on crucial decisions like including food industry associates on the short list of essential workers, provisions and emergency allotments of the SNAP and WIC federal feeding programs, and protocols and regulation adjustments to keep workers safe and the supply chain strong. FMI staff were nimble and quick to respond while also reassuring the public – through numerous on-air interviews on major network and cable stations – that the food supply is not the issue, it’s the heightened demand.
There was a primetime presidential press conference with FMI members where each of those food retail leaders stepped up to promise the American people that they can depend on their local retail grocery store to provide the sustenance that will nourish them through this crisis no matter how long it lasts. Those were the same food industry leaders that then turned to FMI to help deliver on those promises.
For an industry that has been officially and formally recognized the world over for being “essential,” it makes sense that industry players big and small have turned to FMI as their essential source for solutions, resources and information in a global crisis.
It is my responsibility to communicate and prove the membership value proposition to constituents while building awareness for the benefits of belonging to the organization.
In recent U.S. Grocery Shopper Trend COVID-19 Tracker reports from the height of this crisis, we’ve read verbatim quotes from shoppers like:
“Thank you for keeping your shelves stocked, for providing antibacterial wipes at the door, for shutting down at night and doing extra sanitizing.”
“We are very grateful you have remained open and are doing your best to follow the CDC guidelines.”
“Thank you for doing your part, you are doing a great job making sure everything is sanitized and cleaned and trying hard to keep shelves stocked, all workers are working hard during this time and we all appreciate it.”
“Thx for the floor signs and plastic shield at checkout counter.”
“Thank you for everything you're doing to make sure our communities are still fed.
This type of gratitude from customers provides the circumstantial evidence that proves FMI, through its members, has had a significant impact on preserving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. FMI is a valued and indispensable partner to the member companies that employ the frontline heroes and essential workers helping feed our communities.
The past two months have epitomized the value of the food industry association and its crucial role in helping retailers, wholesale distributors, state associations, and product suppliers cohesively face the challenges of a new era.
…and I still need to finish my employee orientation.