Since last week, Arizona National Guard troops have been lending a hand at the Food City grocery store in Nogales, helping staff keep the shelves stocked during a period of high demand.
Store manager Daniel Zuniga said two Guardsmen have been showing up every other day to work with the Food City night crew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. as supply loads arrive. Speaking on Thursday, Zuniga said the Guardsmen had helped at the store during four overnight shifts so far, and he expected them to be there for two more.
“They’ve been helping stock the store, whatever area needs to be stocked or cleaned or whatever,” Zuniga said.
Gov. Doug Ducey announced on March 19 that he was activating the National Guard to restock store shelves in counties where there had been confirmed cases of COVID-19. The move was meant to address the combination of high demand from panic-buyers and snags in the supply chain that had left many story shelves bare.
The Arizona National Guard said earlier this week that it had activated more than 700 citizen soldiers and airmen to support grocery stores, food banks and other community needs around the state.
Zuniga said the extra hands have made a big difference at the local Food City.
“Getting us ready for our 6 a.m. opening is crucial, especially with the amount of items we’re trying to stock and the amount of time we have. So it’s been crucial for us as far as having the store ready,” he said.
Food City is still having trouble stocking toilet paper and disinfectants – two of the most in-demand products locally and nationwide. But otherwise, Zuniga said, the store is managing to maintain a supply of products. “We’ve had a little of everything,” he said.
Food City, located less than a mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border, has long been popular with shoppers from Nogales, Sonora. But on March 21, the U.S. government began restricting “non-essential” border-crossings, which includes shopping trips.
Zuniga said the store typically sees a drop in sales at the end of the month, and the same was true in March. Still, he added, “It’s a little lower than usual, so I’m sure (the new border policy) has a lot to do with the lower demand that we’ve encountered.”