Food Pantry Guidelines Covid-19

Food Pantry Guidance During Covid-19

General Recommendations in Place at All Times

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 70% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, and cell phones.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.
  • Develop and clearly communicate a plan that includes guidance to staff, volunteers, and clients:
    • Protective measures for older adults or immuno-compromised populations.
    • Reduces fear, barriers, and stigma.
    • Continues access to food. 

Additional Measures During COVID-19 Pandemic

Workers / Volunteers

  • Follow social distancing guidelines and limit the number of workers/volunteers in food pantry space. Ensure workers maintain a distance of at least six feet away from each other. Mark stations with painter’s tape.
  • Require all workers to wear clean face masks covering nose and mouth and latex or nitrile gloves at all times.
  • Encourage cleaning of counters, handles on carts, door handles, pens, computers stations, etc.
  • Instruct workers to use disinfectant wipes or soap and water to clean surfaces of incoming produce and products from deliveries.
  • Reiterate to all workers/volunteers the importance of staying home at any sign of illness, or if a member of their household is symptomatic.


Food Distribution to Clients

  • Create an alternate delivery system such as a curb side pickup where clients pull up in their cars and volunteers deliver a prepackaged bag to their car.
  • Prepackage bags and pass out food at the door.
  • Tell sick clients to stay home and ask a friend or neighbor to pick up their groceries.
  • Extend hours or open an additional day so clients are spread out to avoid congestion in the parking lot.
  • Isolation and Quarantine of sick persons – consider if your organization can provide service to individuals in isolation or quarantine such as dropping off meals or supplies.
  • Request a waiver from your contractor to alter your client intake process. Such as allowing food staff and volunteers to fill out any forms or paperwork on behalf of their clients. Clients must be able to view and verbally verify the information documented is correct. Staff and volunteers cannot sign on behalf of a client. Before choosing to implement any changes, you should ensure the changes won’t create compliance issues with other streams of funding your food book / pantry might receive.

Supply Chain and Resource Considerations

  • Prepare and plan for operations with a reduced workforce. Anticipate a larger reduction in senior volunteers.
  • Identify essential positions and people required to sustain necessary functions and operations. Cross-train or develop ways to function in absence of these positions.
  • Plan for downsizing services but also anticipate scenarios which may require a surge in your services. For example, pre-packing food boxes for use in your subcontractors’ distribution, or using mobile food banks to do distributions in areas whose food pantries are not able to open due to insufficient staffing or volunteers.