One of the essential things we need during this pandemic is food; grocery shopping remains a necessity. But how safe is it to go shopping and what do we need to know in order to protect ourselves?


There are a lot of opinions floating around on how we should be shopping for groceries, but I am going to share with you the research-based information. This will hopefully dispel some myths at the same time.


Just as with takeout, drive through, and delivery of prepared foods, there is currently no evidence of getting COVID19 from food packaging. It is spread from person-to-person.


There is no shortage of food. Panic buying is contributing to the shortages at the store.


Buy only what you need, don’t stock up more than 1-2 weeks. The grocery stores may be temporarily out of things you normally buy, but the food supply chain is in good shape.


When you go to the store, protect yourself and others.


When you must go in person, go during hours when fewer people will be there. For example, early morning or late night is better than the middle of the day. Many stores have adjusted hours for the elderly and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.


Anytime you are around someone outside of those living in your household with you, wear a mask, especially in the store and while in public for necessities.


Disinfect the shopping cart with either wipes from the store or your own to wipe down the handles of the cart or basket. Check with your store to see if they are allowing reusable shopping bags. If so, be sure they are washed before each visit.


Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth while shopping. When you get home, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, and again after you put away your groceries.


Practice social distancing while shopping and in line. Stay at least six feet away from others. This will protect you, store workers, and other shoppers. Most stores have that distance marked on the floor for you.


If possible, use touchless payment meaning pay without using a card, money or the keypad. If you must handle money, a card or use the keypad, use hand sanitizer or a wipe to disinfect your hands right after paying.


Many stores are now offering online ordering for home delivery or curbside pickup; however, it may take a while to get your order, from a couple of hours to days, depending upon the business. Plan your time accordingly for your order to be delivered or picked up.


Use caution when accepting deliveries, including those from family members and neighbors, and limit in-person contact if possible. Pay online or on the phone when you order and accept deliveries without in-person contact whenever possible. Ask for deliveries to be left in a safe spot outside your house, such as a table on the front porch or by your door, with no person-to-person interaction.


Once you have those groceries, put them away immediately. There is no reason to leave them outside for 14 days or even two to three days after shopping. Doing so can increase the risk of food borne illnesses.


However, if you wish, you can wipe down product packaging and allow it to air dry as an extra precaution. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Handwashing after putting away groceries, before preparing food and before eating are best practices to reduce transmission.


In these unprecedented times, choose where you get your information carefully and look for research-based organizations. For more information on COVID-19 and protecting yourself, check out the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture at www.uaex.edu/covid-19 to find information you can trust. For questions or to learn more, you can contact the Logan County Extension Office at 479-963-2360 or 479-675-2787.