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COVID-19: Guidance for community food organisations

The Scottish Government Food Insecurity Team have provided guidance for community food initiatives (CFIs), which covers information on: How CFIs can help: the Scottish Welfare Fund and use of vouchers; staff, volunteer and service user safety; food supply; maintaining dignity whilst providing food aid; food safety; and details about how to contact this Scottish Government Team.

See other posts for information about where to get the latest COVID-19 health advice and information about COVID-19 funding.

How Community Food Initiatives can help

The Scottish Government Food Insecurity Team recognise that community food groups and other organisations providing food are a vital service at this time and, as per the latest UK Government guidance, are not being asked to close.

They recognise that some CFIs may choose to close due to capacity or safety concerns. For those which continue to operate, the most up to date public health advice should be followed from

As far as possible we all want to ensure that:

  • Those who can get to the shops to purchase food have the money they need to do this. The budget for the Scottish Welfare Fund has been more than doubled to ensure it can meet the needs of those facing financial crisis.
  • Community organisations may also choose to provide vouchers or cash as an alternative to direct food provision. The Food Insecurity Team have had reassurances from the Department for Work and Pensions that this will not affect benefits.
  • Food delivery is available for those who can’t get out.
  • Where the above is not possible that community food organisations can provide food in a safe and dignified way

Staff, volunteer and service user safety

Staff and volunteers should work from home where possible however we recognise that those delivering frontline services cannot follow this advice.  To lower the risk of transmission and protect us all, social distancing advice should be followed at all times. This includes when working from premises:

  • Ensuring a distance of 2 metres between staff and customers
  • Letting people enter only in numbers that do not lead to crowding
  • Putting in place queue control outside

When delivering food orders to people at home, the advice is to leave the shopping on the door step.

If this is not possible, then try to minimise the contact required to get the food into the home. For example, ask the recipient to stay in another room whilst the food is put away in the kitchen and remind everyone to regularly wash their hands.

Food supply

There is no overall shortage of food in Scotland – retailers have good food stocks and are working hard to replenish stock quickly.

Some stores are offering early slots for older people to do their shopping, and are putting in place support to ensure community food organisations are still able to access supplies. Contact your local retailers to find out which stores have adopted this policy and share this information with your community.

Local authorities and Local Resilience Partnerships should be working closely with retailers and suppliers, as well as FareShare, to support community food providers, food banks and others, to ensure consistent supply of food for those supporting at-risk groups. As with No Deal Brexit mitigation work, community food organisations will be able to access FareShare food without needing to pay membership fees.

Maintaining dignity and social but not physical contact

While this an emergency situation, it will be important to uphold high standards of care, ensuring as far as possible that decisions taken in the coming weeks promote everyone’s dignity and choice. Community food organisations are often vital sources of social contact. To support people’s mental wellbeing you might want to consider virtual befriending options, for example, telephone or video calling in place of in-person gathering. Befriending Networks have published guidance

Nourish Scotland and the Dignity Peer Network have produced advice on how to maintain dignity in community food provision at this time.

Food safety

There is no evidence that food is a source of coronavirus or that it can be transmitted through the consumption of food. Based on what we know about similar viruses, the virus would be inactivated through thorough cooking and the disinfection of food preparation surfaces using appropriate methods.

Therefore, it is important to follow good hygiene practice at all times when handling food, taking the following precautions to prevent the spread of infection:

  • Wash hands thoroughly throughout the preparation of food, in particular:
    • after coughing or sneezing
    • after going to the toilet
    • before eating and drinking
  • Hand sanitiser gels can be used in addition to hand washing, but they only work on clean hands. They should never be used as a substitute for hand washing.
  • Try to minimise direct hand contact with food by using tongs and utensils. Gloves can be used to minimise direct contact with food. However, gloves can become contaminated in the same way as hands so are not a substitute for good personal hygiene and hand washing.

Further information and guidance is available from Food Standards Scotland.

Key Scottish Government contact

If you have any queries on the above please email and someone will respond as soon as possible.


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