More stores that offer grocery staples have announced special hours to try and help senior shoppers, considered most vulnerable to severe illness from the novel coronavirus.

But in at least one case, the measure drew large crowds that left seniors standing closely in line waiting for a store to open, and scavenging for scarce groceries, according to a report.

Acme Supermarkets, which has at least 20 locations around NJ, has reserved two hours Monday through Friday, 7 until 9 a.m, for each “community's senior citizens and other at-risk populations, such as pregnant women or those with compromised immune system.” The grocery chain said on its Facebook page March 18 “We appreciate your patience and support as we help our neighbors ensure their needs are met."

Walmart announced that between March 24 and April 28, stores would host "an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers aged 60 and older. This will start one hour before the store opens." Pharmacies and vision centers also will open during that time.

Walmart sites, including more than 60 discount stores and super centers in NJ, also introduced customer limits to discourage hoarding such items as paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and water, in addition to diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.

At least one ShopRite location in Middlesex County, the store in Carteret, also announced updated store hours to be 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily, with an additional early shopping hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays for high-risk and customers who are 60 and over.

All Stop & Shop stores, including 60 across New Jersey, have begun opening for a special 90-minute span each day to service only customers who are age 60 and older.

After the announcement March 16, the hours went into effect Thursday, greeted by a large crowd of shoppers lined up outside at least one Stop & Shop in Clifton, as reported by It posted video of hundreds of seniors waiting in line:

"Our special shopping hours for those 60+ proved to be well-attended on the first day, showing that dedicated time for those most vulnerable to shop is clearly something our communities want and need," Stop & Shop said in a statement sent to New Jersey 101.5. "It’s important for our customers to remember that this is not a one-day event."

A spokesperson for the company said the Clifton turnout was "one of the biggest" in North Jersey.

Kings Food Markets, which has about 23 grocery stores in north and central New Jersey, also announced March 16 that it was reserving the “first hour of shopping for our elderly and high-risk guests.” Customers can check local store hours online.

Dollar General, which has more than 80 stores across New Jersey, started encouraging a senior hour for each store’s first 60 minutes open, “to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need and want at the beginning of each day to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods.”

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