Military commissaries nationwide returned to normal operations Oct. 8, less than one week after their government shutdown closure inspired a system-wide rush on groceries.
The stores, run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), had a record breaking sales day Oct. 1 as the stores stayed open one day into the government-wide shutdown to offload perishable foods. Fearing a long-term closure, servicemembers, family members and retirees flocked to the stores to stock-up on items that typically cost less at the commissary.
Total commissary sales for Oct. 1 were $30.6 million, more than double normal daily sales volume, and the highest sales day since 2000, a DeCA spokesman said. From that total, stateside stores that were about to close for the shutdown accounted for $26.3 million. Overseas stores were exempted from the shutdown order.
At Fort Campbell, Ky., for example, on Oct. 1 commissary shelves were cleared of meat, some paper products, many produce items, natural peanut butter, discounted macaroni and cheese and some dairy products, among other things.
In reopening, commissary officials warned that it may be some time for shelves to be restocked as food delivery schedules get back on track.
"We will do everything possible to ensure that our shelves are properly stocked with the products customers want when they shop," Joseph Jue, DeCA's CEO said in a statement. "However, there will be a short adjustment period as our stores settled back into their pre-shutdown operating and delivery routines."
News that the commissary was back to its normal schedule was greeted with excitement by some patrons.
"Hallelujah!," Fort Campbell resident Nicole Schoolcraft-Conway said on the Fort Campbell Wives Facebook page. "I'm almost out of coffee!"
But some felt the reopening was inequitable in light of the continuing shutdown, particularly the news that families of servicemembers killed during the shutdown will not receive their death gratuity payment until the government reopens.
"I was so excited about the commissary being back open until I read about the soldiers being denied death benefits," said Army spouse Ernestine James on the same page. "I'm in a boycott the commissary kinda mood now. That is ridiculous!"