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COVID-19 Preventative Measures - Delivering for Mass Food Distribution



Authors as Published

Renee Boyer, Professor and Extension Specialist, Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech; and Ben Chapman, Professor and Food Safety Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University

There are no documented cases of COVID-19 being contracted from food or food packaging, but there have been several instances at places where food is served or sold due to person-to-person transmission especially without face coverings. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices when handling or preparing food to prevent foodborne illnesses. If you are delivering and distibuting food to large groups of people consider food safety, physical distance, health and hygiene as well as cleaning and disinfecting best practices.


  • Ask people not to pick up food if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Try offering contact-less options.
  • Crowds need to be managed in line, waiting and gathering areas
  • Use ground markers to keep people six feet apart while in lines
  • Consider having people sign up for time slots to visit to pick up food and ask they wait outside until their designated time
    • Use online ticketing systems or walk up tickets 
  • Surfaces have shown to be a factor in transmission, although probably much less than person-to-person transmission
  • Limit self-service or buffet style food distribution, package food ahead of time
  • Provide oversight of food or beverage stations if they must be used
    • Limit amount of single service items out at a time 
    • Disinfect areas as needed


  • Before and during the mass food distribution, make it clear that masks and cloth face coverings are encouraged for all through various communication methods such as email, flyers and signs
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol should be made available in various locations of the facility and for those delivering food


  • All items that could have been touched by people should be cleaned and disinfected frequently:
    • Doors, doorknobs, handles, railings
  • CDC recommends cleaning followed by disinfection as a best practice for prevention of COVID-19
  • Use bleach or compounds listed on EPA List N, found at
  • Household bleach may also be used at a concentration of 1000ppm for minimum of one minute
    • 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
  • Increase volunteers assigned to cleaning and disinfecting during peak times


  • Similar to takeout, delivering food to others helps maintain social distancing and reduces the number of touch points between preparation and serving of food Food should be labeled on how to be properly handle food with information such as:
    • Refrigerate food as soon as possible. Do not leave outside of home
    • Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer after handling food packaging
  • Ensure vehicles and packaging are clean and sanitary, as dirty vehicles can be a source of cross-contamination Use good personal hygiene and wash hands frequently if you are delivering food to others
  • Use insulated packaging, ice and freezer packs while food is in transit
  • Coordinate food delivery when someone is home and maintain six feet apart
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Updated August 26, 2020


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Publication Date

September 9, 2020