NEW ORLEANS — The workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic were surprised with a special thank you at the store Monday night: Free groceries at Winn-Dixie and other markets around the Southeast.
Southeastern Grocers, the owners of Winn-Dixie and other grocery stores, says they footed the bill for first responders and healthcare workers buying essentials during their designated shopping hour.
A spokesperson said Southeastern Grocers was inspired after entertainment mogul Tyler Perry paid for the groceries of elderly shoppers at all 29 Winn-Dixie locations in Louisiana and 44 Kroger grocery stores around the Atlanta area last week.
The chain owners said Perry challenged them to give back, too, so they decided to step up and say thank you to the community heroes who have been working around the clock to take care of COVID-19 patients.
Shoppers were surprised and thankful at checkout when they found their total was $0.
"We were inspired to pay it forward and hope to inspire others so we can continue to lift spirits during this difficult time. As a community, we are stronger together and will win together with kindness,” said Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers.
Southeastern Grocers also blanked the bill at their other chains besides Winn-Dixie: BI-LO, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket.
All told, healthcare professionals and first responders in seven states were surprised with free purchases.
The grocers have store locations across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Last Wednesday, Winn-Dixie customers were shocked when they went to check out and were given a note that their purchases had been completed covered by Perry, the New Orleans-born writer, actor, producer and comedian behind the "Madea" series.
Shoppers were handed a piece of paper that said “Random act of kindness. Present to cashier before 8 a.m.
“We walked in and the manager just had this huge grin on his face when he was handing out these pieces of paper,” Erin Cowser, who was shopping in Hammond, said.