Food Safety Essentials: Community Meals and Donations

April 30, 2020

Food Safety Essentials: Community Meals and Donations


You want to make a difference, but are entering new territory.

These tips can help anyone thinking about donating or preparing meals for:

  • NHS staff and key workers
  • Vulnerable groups being shielded
  • Those in self-isolation due to COVID-19 symptoms
  • Community groups and local organisations


  • Ensure all teams are aware of your new ways of working, the controls you have introduced and why you created them
  • Make teams aware of what they need to do if they suspect they have COVID-19
  • Reinforce previous training teams may have received on personal hygiene practices, cleaning and disinfection, and other food hygiene and safety practices, including allergen control
  • Document any additional training you have provided for teams

You will need to carefully plan what you intend to do, based on which and how many people you intend to feed.


Everyone involved should be fit and healthy. Make sure no one leaves their home to come to work if they or someone they live with has either:

  • A high temperature, OR
  • A new, continuous cough

Take extra care to wash your hands often and for 20 seconds, using soap and water, especially when you:

  • Get into work
  • Handle food
  • Blow your nose, sneeze or cough


Small bones or muscle tissue that may cause a healthy person some discomfort to swallow can cause choking amongst vulnerable persons who are unable to chew food easily.

The best way to reduce this risk is not including ingredients that are likely to cause choking in meals prepared for vulnerable groups.

As a general rule, these would include foods that:

  • Could potentially be swallowed whole
  • Contain small bones
  • Have a hard texture
  • Require a lot of chewing

Vulnerable persons can often have quite complex dietary needs so prepared meals should be clearly labelled for allergens, and be as healthy and nutritious as possible.

Some foods are more likely to cause food poisoning than others.

These include:

  • Unpasteurised (raw) milk
  • Raw protein (egg / shellfish / fish / meat)
  • Soft cheese / pâté
  • Unwashed fruit and veg

If you are receiving donations from other businesses to prepare meals or food parcels:

  • Consider the allergen information that comes with products before using
  • Do not use food past its use-by date
  • Always follow storage and cooking instructions

As best practice, anyone making or donating food for a food bank should label it appropriately with what the item is, the date it was produced and details of any allergens so that individuals with food hypersensitivities can avoid it.


If you are preparing meals, remember the 4Cs of good hygiene: cleaning, cooking, chilling and avoiding cross-contamination.

Cleaning: Clean hands, clean equipment and clean surfaces prevent harmful bacteria from spreading into food.

Ensure that food preparation areas are regularly cleaned and sanitised.

Cooking: Cooking food to the right temperature and for the correct length of time will ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed.

Chilling: Cooling any pre-cooked food properly and quickly helps stop harmful bacteria from growing.

Cross-Contamination: Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw foods from touching or dripping onto ready-to-eat food, utensils or surfaces.

Also make sure social distancing is practiced in the food preparation areas, in line with government advice.

Pickup & Delivery

All food needs to be stored or delivered in a way that ensures it does not become unsafe or unfit to eat.

Always use appropriate food-grade packaging or takeaway boxes.

Well-fitting lids help avoid contamination in transit.

A ‘tamper-proof’ sticker on packaging helps give confidence to consumers that no contamination has occurred since the food was prepared.

Re-usable containers are OK as long as they are thoroughly cleaned between use to prevent cross-contamination with germs, allergens and physical contaminants.

Food shouldn’t be subject to temperatures abuse when delivering or transporting, think about how you are transporting so that it’s kept cool or hot.

Think practically about how long it will take you to package and transport the quantities of food you are preparing and create instructions for the intended consumer on how quickly it must be eaten – e.g. ‘eat on day of delivery’.

If you are setting up a new food bank or business providing food on a regular and organised basis, OR you are looking to start offering a delivery or takeaway service, you will need to register with your local authority.

If you have any questions or require further assistance, please get in touch.

NSF is here to help!
T: 0844 8472 720

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