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Food banks

Information for food banks about the risk of COVID-19 spread to your volunteers and clients.
Note (March 27, 2020): The advice below is based on current recommendations and may change. The most up-to-date information is provided in daily briefings by the PHO and Minister of Health. Please see the Joint statement on Province of B.C.’s COVID-19 response, latest updates and BCCDC’s website on COVID-19.  PHO orders must be followed in a Provincial State of Emergency – PHO orders may be found here

Perishable food recovery

Some foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and meats, have been previously displayed to customers and then culled. Members will pick up these items daily and bring them to their food bank for immediate donation to our clients.

  • There has been no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 spread through food.
  • Foods received that are already packaged are lower risk. These would include packaged salads, milk, bagged vegetables or fruits and packaged meats. These foods would not have been directly handled by any customers.
  • For foods like fresh lettuce, or bulk apples etc. that may have been touched or handled by people in the store, there is no way to know if they have been exposed to an infected customer or staff member. These foods are still considered low risk because the virus is not likely to be present and will die off in hours to days. 
  • We recommend that food banks advise clients receiving these foods about the exposure and that you cannot assess the risk. The virus only survives a matter of hours/days on surfaces. 
  • We advise clients to wash foods with potable cold running water and reassure them that there have been no documented cases of COVID-19 from eating foods.
  • Fresh vegetables like potatoes or cabbages that will be cooked before eating are low risk. Normal cooking temperatures will kill the coronavirus.

Physical distancing for volunteers and clients

Minimizing client and volunteer risk:

  • If clients and volunteers are asymptomatic, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is very low. 
  • If volunteers are symptomatic, they should stay home. 
  • If clients are symptomatic, they should limit their interactions with others. This includes avoiding crowding and maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres between people. Poster
  • It may be difficult to maintain a distance of 2 metres with your clients. Some options would be to prepare hampers ahead of time for clients to pick up. Consider having clients wait outside where the risk of transmission is lower. Stagger pickup to avoid crowding. 
  • Have handwashing stations or hand sanitizers available.  
  • We do not advise wearing masks for volunteers. This can result in accidental touching of eyes or nose when adjusting the mask that can help spread infection.

Other resources

SOURCE: Food banks ( )
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