By: Rick Tibbetts, Communications Specialist, FMI
With 42 grocery stores scattered between Los Angeles and San Diego, Northgate Gonzalez Market is a Southern California staple. The company proudly embeds itself in the Latinx communities in which it operates, offering affordable and nutritious foods to largely low-income, Spanish-speaking shoppers. Beyond its day-to-day operations, Northgate actively works to enrich the lives of its customers and bring essential value to the places it calls home.
This benevolent spirit shined especially bright throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mixed messaging – along with mask and social distancing mandates – made it difficult for low-income people and non-English speakers to get the information and resources required to say safe. Recognizing the critical need in its communities, Northgate sprang into action, creating a COVID-19 Vaccine Committee to provide education and vaccine access to associates and community members.
When COVID-19 vaccines were first authorized for those 65 and older, the Committee offered its senior citizen associates free Uber and Lyft transportation to their appointments, even checking in on them at the hospital to make sure they found their way to the testing and vaccination areas. Soon after, the Committee partnered with multiple county public health programs and providers to host over 150 vaccine clinics in Northgate stores. All associates were given eight hours of paid sick leave to get vaccinated. The Committee broadened the incentive by giving out free tacos and $10-$25 grocery gift cards to those who got vaccinated in the community or in store.
However, convenience and rewards were only part of the Committee’s equation. It also worked to build trust by using the primary language of many of Northgate’s consumers. In partnership with CalOptima, a County Organized Health System that offers health insurance programs for low-income children, adults, seniors and people with disabilities, the Committee created Spanish language PSA videos for local TV on the importance of getting vaccinated. The PSAs featured Northgate’s Co-CEO, Miguel Gonzalez, a trusted community leader. Back in store, the Committee enlisted the help of county doctors for in-person “Charlas,” or chats to answer questions and concerns from both associates and community members. In addition, Northgate developed in-store bilingual radio spots to educate and inform shoppers on how to stay safe as they perused the store aisles.
In the end, the hard, dedicated work of Northgate’s COVID-19 Vaccine Committee helped get 8,000 low-income community members vaccinated. It also assisted 2,000 Northgate employees in making their vaccine appointments. The Southern California grocer’s highly innovative solutions to a public health crisis are why it was selected as the winner of FMI’s 2021 Community Uplift Awards in the category of Neighborhood Health Development programs. Find out more about Northgate’s exhaustive efforts to keep its communities safe. Also, check out the full list of Community Uplift Awards nominees and their remarkable programs.