Safe Food Distribution Practices During COVID-19
Countywide Network of Emergency Food Pantries:
The client intake process at our 17 food pantries will be very different for the coming weeks and months ahead. The household intake process will be much faster, limiting the amount of interaction (such as drive-through distributions and outdoor distributions that enforce social distancing of 6 feet, with volunteers/staff signing households in, rather than sharing pens). At most pantries, the "choice" model has been suspended in favor of pre-made bags of food, in order to limit the handling of food items and keep everything as sanitary as possible. Several pantries have implemented a menu system, in which volunteers gather and pack the food items a household requests. Each pantry is implementing the methods that work best for its space, the safety of all, and volunteer, staff, and food resources.
Mobile Produce Pantry Sites:
The distribution process has changed at our 11 countywide Mobile Produce Pantry sites, for the safety of all. Staff/volunteers will be bagging produce items on behalf of participants. All of these outdoor distributions will be set up in a manner that enforces social distancing of 6 feet, with volunteers/staff signing households in, rather than sharing pens. All of this requires extra staff and volunteers to accomplish. Several of our Mobile Produce Pantry sites have transitioned into a bulk delivery to a local nonprofit that will bag, distribute, and deliver on our behalf.
Senior & Homebound Delivery Programs:
Service delivery has been transformed at our 17 countywide senior food program sites. Our staff, in addition to community partners that help coordinate our senior programs in more distant communities, have implemented strict safety guidelines to continue service. Staff/volunteers at all sites (and on all routes) will be signing households in, rather than sharing pens. The following site distribution procedures are in effect:
- Senior distribution sites located at senior apartment buildings will be operated as follows: Food for People staff will deliver food and paperwork to a designated building manager, who will make sure food gets to each participant's apartment and sign on behalf of the household.
- Senior distribution sites at other locations typically operated by Food for People staff will operate as car-side service. Seniors are asked to park and stay in their vehicles. Food for People staff/volunteers will go car-to-car to deliver food to the vehicle and sign on the participant's behalf.
- Homebound individuals who typically receive delivery will continue to receive delivery from volunteers who will be trained on our new safety protocols, including signing on the participant's behalf and stepping 6 or more feet away from the doorstep, for a "no-contact" delivery.
- Partner sites that operate our senior program on our behalf are trained in all safety protocols.
Backpacks for Kids:
We continue to provide food for our Backpacks for Kids program at 35 school sites countywide. Schools have committed to keeping this program in operation for participating students, in addition to providing school meals in a safe manner.
General Guidelines at All Food Distributions:
- Staff and volunteers wash hands frequently, utilize hand sanitizer, and wear/change gloves while handling food.
- We disinfect surfaces at distributions and throughout our buildings frequently.
- Our staff and volunteers are required to follow social distancing protols, by keeping safe distances from each other and not gathering in large groups. Staff and volunteers working in groups are kept to 10 or fewer at time in one location.
- Minimum 6 foot social distancing is enforced between participants, volunteers, and staff at all program distributions.
- Participant households are not asked to sign any paperwork--staff/volunteers will do this on their behalf.
For your awareness and reassurance, we want to share some of our standard, routine practices around food safety and hygiene. Our food bank has regular food safety inspections from independent entities (USDA, Feeding America, CDSS, and County Health Dept.) and continuously works to maintain the highest level of cleanliness and sanitation for the safety of the food we provide to our programs and partner agencies, as well as those who enter our facilities to support our work.