Chronic illness warrior and natural health coach and advocate, Gina helps others thrive beyond the challenges of chronic illness.
My son, whom I home-school, recently had the chance to take part in an exciting field trip to Publix, a local grocery store.
Initially, when we heard about the trip, we wondered just how exciting a field trip to the local grocery store could be. We really didn’t have terribly high expectations because, well, it’s a grocery store.
Now, I know grocery stores can be wondrous places. After all, they provide food for those who may not be able to grow their own. They even have a pharmacy where you can have your medication prescriptions filled while you shop. Come to think of it, Publix stores are pretty nice and clean, but grocery shopping is such a mundane activity, that I didn't consider a field trip to one to be an exciting thing.
We were so wrong.
It was actually quite enjoyable.
We were greatly surprised, and we were treated to a rare chance to see behind-the-scenes operations at the popular neighborhood grocery chain.
They Even Wore Hair Nets
A Little Bit of History About Publix
- They were founded in 1930 in Winter Haven, Florida, by George W. Jenkins.
- They are the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the United States.
- They are one of the 10 largest-volume supermarket chains in the country.
- Their retail sales in 2014 reached $30.6 billion.
- Currently, they employ over 168,500 people.
- They received numerous awards for being a great place to shop and work.
Kick-off to the Tour
We were greeted inside Publix by two of the Managers, who were also going to be our tour guides.
They briefly explained where we would be going on the tour, as well as the importance of following all the rules she then laid out, and reiterated in each area to follow.
....and the Tour Begins
The Dairy Department
Our tour began in the Dairy Department.
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While there, students were allowed to go into the Dairy refrigerator, as well as the Dairy freezer where meats and ice are kept. The temperature in the freezer was a cool 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius.
Some students tested their endurance by seeing how long they could stay in the freezer. Many of them had no jackets on, so it got quite cold really quickly.
Inside The Dairy Refrigerator
Inside The Dairy Freezer
After leaving the Dairy Department, the next stop was the back of Publix where there was a truck receiving donations for the homeless and local food banks.
Students also learned about recycling here.
Publix Recycling Efforts
Innovations in recycling encouraged us to look beyond traditional materials. So, in addition to plastic, cardboard, and water savings, Publix is recycling food waste. "And we‘re taking our efforts beyond the store, too, by partnering with vendors to ensure that much of the Publix Brand Product packaging is recyclable or made from recycled materials," says the manager tour guide.
Publix's companywide recycling rate is 51 percent, and "we are actively working to raise it even higher. In 2013, we recycled 230,000 tons of cardboard and wax cardboard, 4,000 tons of mixed paper, and 8,800 tons of low-density polyethylene and mixed plastic."
All of this saved about:
- 3.9 million trees,
- 1.6 billion gallons of water,
- 761,000 cubic yards of landfill space, and
- 2.5 million barrels of oil.
Working together with companies like Waste Management (WM)—North America's largest recycler—"we've expanded our organics recycling. In 2013, we diverted more than 10,800 tons of food waste from almost 200 of our stores to organics recyclers or to feed animals on farms and in zoos. We more than doubled the number of stores on this program in 2014 and this number will continue to grow as more organics recycling programs become available. Also in 2013, more than 19,000 tons of food waste generated by our manufacturing operations was recycled to benefit animals. Everything from potato peelings to whey from our cottage cheese production is used for livestock feed."
Publix offers in-store recycling of paper and plastic bags at all of our retail locations. Not only can customers drop off any brand grocery paper bag or plastic shopping bag for recycling, but they can also recycle plastic sleeves from dry cleaning and newspapers.
Students learned that the money received from recycling pays the electricity bill every month. Nice!
Just a short walk from the baler is the trash compactor. It was not pleasant and we did not stay very long in this area, although we were each curious to see what this giant garbage trash can looked like.
Trash Chute and Compactor
After we left the Baler area, we then went on to the Produce area, where produce was cut and prepared for the store.
In the produce section, we got to watch some pineapples be cut, cored, and peeled. There was even a friendly watermelon cutting competition between the two managers.
The Meat Department
The next stop was the Meat Department where meat cutters perform various duties in the preparation of meat for sale to customers. The duties include: cutting beef, pork, chicken, seafood by saw and knife; breaking down beef; wrapping meat; cubing; boning; waiting on customers, and cleaning.
Meat cutters use a boning knife, a steak knife, a hook, a saw, an electrically operated cubing machine, a power saw, a slicer, a wrapping machine, and a grinding machine in performing their duties in the meat market. The boning knife is used for trimming and the steak knife for cutting
Meat cutters wore metal mesh gloves while cutting meat. This was to protect their hands from accidental injury. They worked.
The Meat Department
From the Meat Department we headed to the Bakery, where the kids each received a cookie which they decorated themselves. They were also given a demonstration of several cake decorating tips while they filled an order. This was a total surprise as each student was instrumental in completing the order by adding their touches to the cake....as ordered of course.
The Deli was our next stop, where each child received a bag of popcorn as well as sampled different types of cheese.
The Publix Deli is warm, deliciously scented, and filled with busy customers eagerly choosing their favorite subs, party platters or family dinners. Ordering mouthwatering sliced meats for their sandwiches from cheerful associates is easy. There are so many delicious items to try.
Trip to the Pharmacy
When we finished up in the Deli, we walked to the Pharmacy where the kids learned how to use the Blood Pressure monitor. They also learned that Publix gives free antibiotics. Many of the parents present did not know that and were happy with the information.
Treats, Treats and More Treats
Alas, it was time for the tour to end....but not without more goodies.
After a lesson on checking out and customer service, the kids met the managers at the front where they received even more treats, and compliments on being so well behaved.
Each student received a gift bag filled with a coloring book, pencils, crayons, some snacks, and a balloon from the florist. In addition to that, as a result of the visit, the students yielded knowledge about healthy food choices, the economics of grocery shopping, charitable work as well as the workings of various machinery throughout the store.
We had a phenomenal time—I highly recommend contacting your local grocery store to take your kids on a tour!
Lesson on checking out at the cash register.
When we were finished with the tour, Nicholas and I decided to do a little shopping. We headed back to the meat department where we bought some sushi for lunch.
Other Publix Educational Progams
• “Dumpster Diving” (Pollution Prevention),
• “Water the Dinosaurs Drank” (Energy and Water Conservation),
• “Making Paper” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and
• “Compost Critters” (Composting).
© 2016 Gina Welds
Julie Barnard on February 23, 2020:
We took our kiddos to our local HEB.
Much of the same activities.
They had a blast!
Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on November 18, 2016:
Years ago I went on a tour of Wegmans (a Western New York grocery chain) with some of my clients. I too gained great respect for the inner workings of a grocery store.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 16, 2016:
Gina, I had no idea Publix conducts field trip tours and the other educational classes you mention above. I think that's so awesome!
I didn't know they are as environmentally and socially conscious as they are. I am aware they hire handicapped people, especially to aid with bagging groceries, which I think is wonderful.
I have a whole new appreciation and respect for Publix after reading this article. Thank you!
Gina Welds (author) from Tampa, Florida on November 11, 2016:
Thanks for that info Ms. Dora. How are you? Yes. I, too, am surprised that they do so well and am always impressed when I walk into one...the cleanliness of the building, and the friendliness of the staff.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 09, 2016:
Surprised that Publix does so well operating only in the Southeast USA. Imagine when they expand. They are my favorite grocery stores when I visit my son in Georgia, and they were when my daughter studied in Florida. I would enjoy a field trip there too. They are presently in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Gina Welds (author) from Tampa, Florida on November 09, 2016:
Hi Marlene. Publix was founded in Florida, and I am not sure it is in any other states yet. I haven't heard of Winco or SaveMart. We have Save-A-Lot stores here. Of course, Walmart is everywhere.
This field trip was fun. Glad you found some enjoyment from reading about it. I never thought we could have fun found behind-the-scenes at a grocery store.
Marlene Bertrand from USA on November 07, 2016:
I have never heard of Publix. We have Walmart, Winco, and SaveMart around here. Anyway, I would not have guessed a grocery store field trip would be fun. But, I truly enjoyed this field trip and can now appreciate all that goes on behind the scene at grocery stores. It looks like everyone had a really good time.