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Food on the Front Lines

The UW taught grocery distributor Carolyn Trojanowski to be adaptable. COVID-19 is putting that skill to the test.

Carolyn Trojanowski in front of Z. T. Distribution

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers never gave a second thought to how grocery store shelves were restocked. Carolyn Trojanowski ’91 has been a part of the grocery industry since she joined Z. T. Distribution in 2001. She’s now executive vice president of  her husband’s family company, which is a direct store distributor that supplies retailers with quality tortillas, snacks, beverages, and regional specialties.

As the Safer at Home orders began to affect her company’s retailers throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois, she noticed orders tripling just to maintain product availability. Pantry item sales skyrocketed as schools and restaurants closed, forcing people to prepare more meals at home.

Adaptability is a major focus of her company, which has adjusted to the pandemic with frequent executive crew meetings to ensure it follows the most recent CDC protocol and can meet customer demands. Whether it is altering deliveries, serving retailers outside of the normal schedule, providing employees with additional supplies, or putting measures in place to sanitize trucks, the distributor is taking all measures necessary to keep its staff and partners healthy.

Trojanowski draws parallels between her student experience and her current industry. “UW–Madison was a microcosm for what I am experiencing daily,” she says, “whether the day presents challenges such as a need for adaptation, compassion, understanding, or quick wit. Being a Badger does not stop when you no longer walk up Bascom Hill every day — you are a Badger for the rest of your life when you use your intelligence and education for the greater good of all.”

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