US supermarket chain Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) have called on the government to designate grocery store associates as first responders.

The two companies have issued a joint statement urging the federal and state government to grant temporary ‘extended first responders or emergency personnel’ status to grocery workers.

The statement has been issued after both Kroger and the UFCW have been supporting the topic directly with elected officials in the past five weeks.

Various steps have already been taken to keep Kroger associates safe and reward them for their sacrifices throughout the outbreak.

Kroger chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen and UFCW international president Marc Perrone said: “Given the significant daily risk these workers face, we are calling on all of our federal and state leaders to take immediate action. Specifically, we are requesting our nation’s leaders to assign a temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status for all grocery workers.

“Make no mistake, this designation is absolutely critical as it will ensure these frontline workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves.

“This urgent call for temporary first responder or emergency personnel status is not just about protecting grocery store workers; it is also about protecting the customers they serve and our nation’s food supply in general.

“We urge our national and state-wide elected leaders to act now and protect these essential workers.”

Earlier this month, Kroger revealed a sharp rise in sales growth across both physical retail stores and digital channels in March amid the outbreak.