Volunteer Shoppers Can Help Some Commissary Users Get Groceries

An airman bags onions at the commissary.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sherraye Carter, 606th Air Control Squadron unit deployment manager, bags green onions from the Commissary on Aviano Air Base, Italy, March 30, 2020. (Ericka A. Woolever/U.S. Air Force)

Some commissary users who can't get to the store due to the coronavirus pandemic might have another option for buying their groceries: volunteer shoppers.

A new program in effect at seven commissary locations lets commissary users pay by phone while a designated volunteer does their shopping, the commissary announced today. The program is managed by the installation in partnership with the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) and will only be available while the installations are at a Health Protection Condition C or D status, due to rules governing by-phone credit card transactions, commissary officials said.

Right now the program is available at Kelley Barracks, Panzer Kaserne and Robinson Barracks in Germany; Aviano Air Base, Italy; Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland; Fort Hamilton, New York; and Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

To field the volunteer program, installations designate a managing group, such as a spouse club or chaplain's office, DeCA officials said. That group then provides a designated phone line or email for order submissions, does the shopping and provides delivery or pick-up options. After shopping is completed, the commissary rings up the transaction, then phones the customer for payment information.

Commissary officials said they don't have details on which additional bases might start offering the program, but store managers are reaching out to their installation commanders to let them know it's an option.

"We and leaders on the installations we serve recognize that during this pandemic there are some customers who for personal safety reasons should avoid public places and shopping for themselves," James Hudson, principal deputy director of DeCA's store operations said in a release.

The commissary also offers an online ordering and curbside grocery pick-up service known as Click2Go at five stores. They are Fort Belvoir, Fort Eustis, Oceana Naval Air Station, Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, and Fort McGuire, New Jersey.

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