The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA) joined groups nationwide in recognizing the tremendous efforts of grocery workers during the pandemic and beyond. Governor Tom Wolf proclaimed Monday, February 22, as Supermarket Employee Day in Pennsylvania as a way to acknowledge and thank supermarket employees for their extraordinary dedication to a job that has become more significant than ever.
Nearly six million supermarket employees work in the U.S., and more than 220,000 food retail jobs are in Pennsylvania, according to the proclamation. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, supermarket employees continued to “provide all Americans with access to safe, healthy and affordable food” and enhanced “the health and well-being of each customer,” states the proclamation.
“From the first day, our supermarket employees in Pennsylvania left their homes and showed up to work, ensuring that their communities could safely access basic needs,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. “They adapted and adjusted to extraordinary challenges, whether that be new safety protocols, sanitization measures or keeping in-demand items in stock. And they continue to rise to the challenge, for which we are incredibly thankful.”
The governor’s proclamation recognizes the courage, leadership and service displayed by Pennsylvania’s grocery workers while the demands on these jobs grow. The PFMA represents thousands of food retailers across the commonwealth.
In November, The Food Industry Association (FMI) declared February 22 as the first Supermarket Employee Day in response to the work done by employees at every level to provide essential services. According to FMI, millions of supermarket employees report to work at more than 40,000 stores that sell food and grocery items in the U.S.
In other PFMA news, the annual $1,000 DECA Scholarship was awarded to Jessica Zajac, a senior at State College Area High School who has been involved in DECA for the past four years.
Zajac has been accepted to both Penn State and Mississippi State universities and plans to study accounting. She has participated in DECA since her freshman year, holding several officer positions and representing her DECA chapter at state and regional conferences.
“Jessica is an exemplary student, showcasing an impressive high school career,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. “From her leadership through DECA to community service activities to academic honors and beyond, Jessica shows dedication to her education. We’re pleased to award her the DECA scholarship so she can continue achieving academic success in her college studies.”
DECA, Inc., is a nonprofit organization that prepares emerging leaders and young entrepreneurs from high schools and colleges in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. More than 225,000 members participate across the globe.
Zajac credits her experiences with DECA for allowing her to explore all aspects of the business world. She has served as chapter treasurer, vice president of finance and director of career development. She is now the District 4/5 representative at the state level. During her junior and senior years, she helped plan and implement the DECA Dash, a color run that raised money for charity. This past year, the DECA Dash went virtual, raising $3,500 for Kisses for Kyle. Through her participation in competitions, events, fundraisers, leadership conferences and real-world experiences, she decided to pursue accounting.
“Along with her undeniable talents, Jessica has always been an absolute joy to work with. She is a true team player and always manages to foster a positive attitude while bringing out the best in others,” said Zajac’s DECA advisor, Bridget Ciolkasz, in a recommendation letter.
In addition to her work with DECA, she is a featured twirler and instructor with the Nittany Dreamers Batton and Silks Corps and is State High majorette captain. She is the Interact Community Service Club media secretary and a member of the National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Zajac is earning her Gold Award with the Girls Scouts of the USA and is a Centre County Outstanding Young Woman finalist.
She also works as a cashier and self-checkout assistant at Wegmans, a PFMA sponsor and member.
The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, a statewide trade association, advocates the views of nearly 800 convenience stores, supermarkets, independent grocers, wholesalers and consumer product vendors. PFMA members operate more than 4,000 stores and employ more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians.