We all need our provisions. Three square meals. Or snacks. Or comfort food. And more snacks. Maybe some booze. Don’t forget the toilet paper*.
Getting these essentials has become a new kind of challenge, especially for those who are elderly or immunocompromised. Contactless online shopping/delivery is an option. As are grocery stores. But there are also some alternative ways to support local providers and small businesses, like Bow Market’s Safe Supply.
Entering its second month of service, Safe Supply in Somerville is a monitored, open-air experience available three times a week. Admission is free, but guests have to book a time slot through an event page to limit occupancy (which is capped at 25 at a time). Like “candy land for groceries,” shoppers make their way through different tents on a path painted with designated six-foot markers chalked along the ground.
The first, a handwashing station. The last, a chip reader to donate to the Greater Somerville Homeless Coalition’s Project SOUP. In between, you’ll find a mix of “local food vendors, appropriately spaced throughout the courtyard, [offering] fresh fish, meat, produce, dairy, frozen items, and staples.” Through it all, “shopping will be entirely touchless,” according to the ongoing event’s understandably strict rules.
On Saturday, April 11, the market had roughly 265 shoppers and donated about $500 to Project SOUP, a food assistance program. As Safe Supply has gained more traction and attractions, their reservations have been filling up.
Like other grocery stores, Safe Supply has selected times that are open specifically for seniors and those who are immunocompromised. Leah, one of the organizers, encourages shopping from home but added, “If you need groceries and you don’t have a safer way to get them, we are offering an alternative.”
Overall, vendors with distribution to grocery, especially in beer and liquor, are doing okay. According to industry analysis, between March 8 and April 5, a weekly average of 720 million dollars have been spent on beer in grocery, convenience, and liquor chain stores.
As traditional grocery sales go up during the pandemic (beer: +17.8%; wine: +28.7%), many without that revenue stream are trying to keep afloat through changing laws that allow self-distribution and delivery services. For outfits like Bow Market’s Remnant Brewing and Rebel Rebel wine bar, Safe Supply is a lifeline.
“There were some kinks at the beginning, but as we enter our second month, we’re ready to share our blueprint,” Matt Boyes-Watson, a partner at Bow Market, wrote in the Safe Supply Field Guide. “It’s empowering to feel we can feed the nation safely, connecting farm to family, for as long as this continues.”
*Please don’t hoard.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Pandemic Democracy Project.
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Samer Khudairi is a freelance journalist who covers design, music, action sports, and craft beer. His name means the person who tells stories at night. Samer abides by the mantra, 'live all the lives. love all the peoples.'