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Food services in P.E.I. expanding, maintaining staff during coronavirus pandemic


Not everyone is feeling the full brunt of the recent downturn in the Island's economy, especially one large business in food processing and production. 

"During these challenging times, we are doing everything possible to ensure we keep producing esential products. In fact, the province has recognized food production as an essential service," said Mary Keith, vice-president of communications of J.D. Irving Limited, referring to Cavendish Farms. 

In an email to The Guardian, Keith further explained that Cavendish Farms hasn't laid off any employees as a result of the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) on P.E.I., and in terms of operations, she said the company is monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

"We are seeing strong retail demand but weakening food service (restaurant) demand, as could be anticipated given the current conditions," she said.  

On the retail side, Loblaws recently announced that it is hiring and temporarily expanding its workforce in the Atlantic region, such as at its Atlantic Superstore, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart and Dominion stores. In a press release, the company explained that grocery and pharmacy stores are being asked to remain open because they provide essential services, and given that, additional staff is needed to maintain services as well as give existing staff breaks. 

The company says it is hiring stores clerks, drug store merchandisers, assemblers, pharmacists and pharmacy assistants. Loblaws didn't specify the number of positions it is looking to hire, or for how long.

Cavendish Farms has 700 employees. Similar to other businesses, the company is practising health and safety measures, such as work-from-home arrangements and limiting the number of required employees at any given worksite. Other measures include employee screening at site entrances, virtual meetings, stopping all domestic and international air travel and increasing sanitization and disinfection protocols at all facilities. 

The company is also providing employees with three paid emergency leave days to help adjust to school and daycare closures and other extenuating circumstances.


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