Instacart will be hiring some 300,000 additional shoppers for its grocery delivery service; in this picture Instacart shopper Monica Ortega is seen at a supermarket in North Hollywood, California on March 19, 2020

San Francisco (AFP) - Grocery delivery service Instacart on Monday announced plans to double the ranks of “shoppers” who fill orders in North America as people hunker down to reduce coronavirus risk.

The San Francisco based firm said it wants to add another 300,000 “full-service shoppers” during the coming three months to meet soaring demand for grocery delivery or pick-up.

“The last few weeks have been the busiest in Instacart’s history and our teams are working around the clock to reliably and safely serve all members of our community,” chief executive Apoorva Mehta said in a release.

“Instacart shoppers have stepped up as household heroes for families, grandparents, and people in need coast-to-coast,”

Instacart is part of the “gig economy” and serves as a platform connecting people seeking grocery deliveries with those willing to handle the task for a fee.

The company has seen order volume in North America surge by more than 150 percent compared to this time last year, with customers placing larger orders than was typical before people began avoiding shopping excursions due to the coronavirus, according to Instacart.

The move follows announcements by Amazon and Walmart last week on hiring massive numbers of temporary workers to handle increased demand by those turning to the retail giants’ food and supplies during the crisis.

The search for workers comes as many in the US see their jobs vanish as people spend less money on travel, restaurants, hotels, and non-essential goods.

“As more people look for immediate, flexible earnings opportunities during this time, we hope that Instacart can be an additional source of income for those looking to earn while also delivering for the communities in which they live,” Mehta said.

Although Instacart shoppers lack many of the advantages of regular employees, the company last year launched a program offering some benefits including accident insurance and access to health plans.