By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
Editor’s note: This was updated as of Wednesday. For the most up-to-date information visit https://www.carson.army.mil/, and follow Facebook @USArmyFortCarson.
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Anyone who has shopped at the Fort Carson Commissary during the past few weeks has noticed the scarcity of products on the store’s shelves.
Empty grocery store shelves have become the norm for most areas of the U.S. following news of the COVID-19 outbreak in mid-March, but the scenario has changed considerably the last few days of March.
Store shelves are beginning to fill and should look similar to normal on most items, according to Rhonda Smith, Commissary store director.
“We’ve had some distribution issues during the past couple of weeks,” Smith said. “Our delivery trucks just weren’t reaching us and we were backed up as many as five shipments during the past two weeks.”
The good news for commissary shoppers is that distributor trucks began arriving regularly March 29, 2020. Store shelves were relatively full during mid-day March 31, 2020.
“We should be back on track as far as delivery trucks; however, our distributors are out of some products, mainly paper products, sanitizers and disinfectants,” Smith said. “Our distributors also deliver to other grocery stores as well. We’re not their only customer.”
As a result, the Commissary is still limiting purchases on some products, including poultry (three packages per customer) paper products (one package per customer, no matter the case count) and water (one case per customer).
“We have lifted our purchase limits on beef and pork because we’ve recently received our standard orders and — if we limited purchases on those items — we’ll lose some because they are perishable,” Smith said.
It’s an unusually and incredibly busy time for the post’s only grocery store, so Smith and her staff have entered a critical hiring phase. Overtime has been authorized for all Commissary associates, eight new employees have joined the staff and Smith has extended the hiring phase indefinitely because some new hires who were furloughed have been called back to their regular jobs.
“We’re hiring stockers and cashiers, and all of our hires have some affiliation with the military,” Smith said. “Given the movement restrictions, its more than difficult for local civilians off post to access Fort Carson.”
As for restrictions, Commissary shoppers should prepare to be screened – answer health and recent travel questions, wash their hands and have their temperature checked – prior to entering the store. These precautions were set up following Fort Carson’s heightened Health Protection Condition in late March.
The store has also initiated new hours to allow certain segments of the population to shop more safely.
Commissary hours are Monday-Friday 9-11 a.m. for high-risk personnel only. Active-duty Soldiers can shop from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 1-8 p.m. the store is open to all eligible patrons. Saturday-Sunday hours are 8-10 a.m. for high-risk personnel only; from 10 a.m.to noon, active-duty Soldiers can shop; and from noon to 6 p.m., the store is open to all eligible patrons.
Stockers are also cleaning shelves and products at night during the stocking process, and cashiers are cleaning conveyor belts every few customers.
“We want shoppers to know that the Commissary is not empty, like it was last week,” said Sidney Conner, assistant Commissary officer. “Though we have purchase restrictions on a few items, we’re much closer to what people expect to see at the Commissary.”