FLORENCE, S.C. — Two local companies that produce food or distribute goods to grocery stores are stepping up their operations to meet demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
McCall Farms at 6403 S. Irby St. in Effingham cans vegetables under several national labels including Margaret Holmes, Glory Foods, Bruce’s Yams, Princella, Allens, Popeye, Veg.all and Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts.
W. Lee Flowers & Company at 127 E. W. Lee Flowers Road in Scranton, a subsidiary of Alex Lee Inc., is wholesaler and retailer. It operates IGA and KJ’s Market grocery stores throughout South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. That includes three KJ’s in Florence. The warehouse facility in Scranton houses all major departments, including grocery, meat, dairy and produce.
Both companies are stepping up their operations.
“Like other stores, we have seen an increase in demand in staple items such as paper products, meat and eggs,” said Mike Clawson, president W. Lee Flowers and Company. “Since our distribution facility is closer to our stores, we are able to get products to store more quickly and more frequently.”
“We have worked with many different partners to continue to keep our stores stocked and items available, Clawson said. “ For example, we are getting products from food-service distributors that have seen a decrease in demand.”
Many manufacturers are limiting production to their top-selling items to keep up with demand, Clawson said. Products are available, but the same variety may not be there, he said.
“We continue to see lots of people buying paper products and cleaning supplies so they sell quickly when they arrive at the stores, but product is available,” Clawson said.
W. Lee Flowers has increased its workforce to take care of the new demands.
“We have been able to maintain similar hours by increasing our workforce,” Clawson said. “We have partnered with Performance Food Group in Florence, South Carolina, to provide work for their employees that were seeing a decrease in hours.”
McCall Farms has also increased hiring to meet the demand for its canned vegetables.
“Our team knows we have a responsibility to feed the country,” said Woody Swink, co-president of McCall Farms. “We have ramped up production.”
Swink said McCall Farms is running two shifts.
“All our brands are in high demand at this time,” Swink said
McCall Farms grows a many of its own vegetables in Florence County.
”We contract with local growers,” Swink said. “Most all of our vegetables are grown in the South and all are grown in America.”
“McCall Farms and our employees are doing everything we can to support the American people," Swink added.
Swink said canned vegetables are a nutritious way of eating vegetables purchased from the grocery store, even more so than frozen.
He said McCall Farms is doing everything possible to keep workers and consumers safe.
“We are taking everyone’s temperatures before they can come into our facilities,” Swink said.
The company is stressing strict handwashing practices and limiting the number of people who can be within a space to three.
“We are practicing social distancing and following the CDC guidelines,” Swink said.
This is a hard time for a lot of people, Swink said. “We have a responsibility to meet their needs.”