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5 things: Turning candle-makers into pharmacists?

Here’s 5 things you may have missed in grocery

The pharmacist, the baker, the candlestick-maker: Retail pharmacy is looking to recruit new pharmacists whenever they can…including a new partnership in Chicago that targets new moms with a candle-making program. Chicago nonprofit New Moms Inc. is teaming up with CVS Health to allow mothers to transfer their candle-making skills into pharmacy tech positions. Through candle making, New Moms teaches skills like inventory, math, and quality control, skills that CVS is hoping will translate to new blood for the pharmaceutical industry. Will programs like this “shine a new light” on the struggle to recruit new pharmacists? Time will tell. —Chloe Riley

Dark stores growing: A recent report from takes a closer look at the proliferation of so-called dark stores in major urban areas like New York City, Chicago, and Boston. The micro-fulfillment centers, used by services like GoPuff and Gorillas, are nothing new to the industry but could they be contributing to social isolation? Citing U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s 2023 report “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” the story asks whether loneliness could be a national crisis. “The argument could be made that remote work, online schooling, and now dark stores are moving people further away from fundamental human experiences — including hunter-gathering at the grocery store.” —Tim Inklebarger

Costly health care: Insurance providers, including the Aetna division of retailer CVS, are reporting higher costs for their Medicare Advantage plans, which many older consumers purchase as a supplement to Medicare. It seems that many of these consumers had put off having surgeries such as hip replacements during the pandemic, but are now returning to the operating table, according to CNBCBoth CVS and Humana recently said the increased costs of such care would pressure their earnings in 2024. Adding to insurers’ woes? A new “two-midnight rule” requiring Medicare Advantage plans to cover hospitalizations at a higher inpatient rate if doctors predict a stay that lasts more than two midnights. I think Bob Dylan said it best: “May you stay forever young.” —Mark Hamstra

Can Cali finally ban plastic bags? Almost a decade ago, California became the first state in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic bags. The only problem? They weren’t actually able to pull it off. Reusable, heavy-duty plastic bags started being offered to shoppers for ten cents, and since they were technically recyclable, many retailers treated them as exempt from the ban. Now, the state is trying again, with California state legislators considering a bill that would ban all plastic shopping bags by 2026. A recent Supermarket News poll found respondents to be split on whether or not plastic bags should be banned. One retail professional commented: “The plastic bag ban has been in effect in New Jersey now for two years. Studies show that this ban has not done anything to help the environment. It appears that the only thing this ban has done is pass the bag expense from retail to consumers.” —CR

Supermarket Employee Appreciation Day: The big day is less than a week away. We’re not talking about Christmas or the Super Bowl. On Feb. 22, grocery store employees will be showered with praise and gifts in celebration of Supermarket Employee Appreciation Day. OK, maybe a widespread festival across the country is unlikely, but it shouldn’t be because where would we be without our beloved supermarket workers? Probably eating a lot of soggy, lukewarm tacos via DoorDash, that’s where. So, give your grocer a hug (with verbal consent, of course) or at least let them know you appreciate them with a good old-fashioned kudos. Tops Friendly Markets most certainly will be celebrating the little known annual holiday, the grocer recently announced on its website. “This annual event is celebrated on the 22nd of every February to not only highlight the remarkable achievements of our associates, but also the longevity and impact grocery workers make on employment,” the grocer said in a press release. “Well before the term ‘essential workers’ gained prominence, we recognized that it was our associates’ tireless dedication that propelled our business forward, allowing us to curate an exceptional shopping experience for our valued customers.” We couldn’t agree more. —TI

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