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Community food providers guidance overview

Food support under the COVID-19 welfare response

MSD is leading the co-ordination of the welfare response, including how people with COVID-19 will be supported while they are in isolation.

While most people who test positive for COVID-19 and their immediate household will be able to get food delivered by friends or family, some people and whānau will need help. This includes those with more complex circumstances.

MSD is partnering with key community providers, iwi / Māori, local government and other agencies across health, housing, education, and so on.

This welfare response is regionally led, with MSD Regional Commissioners making final funding decisions in their areas. Each region has a team of MSD case managers to support the regional response. Coordinating the response at a regional level ensures the welfare response is tailored to local needs.

As people with COVID-19 and their whānau self-isolate around New Zealand, there will be requests for help from community food providers, and they will come from all parts of the country.

Online form to ask for support

Use the online form on the Work and Income website to ask for self-isolation support from a community organisation. Community, iwi and Pacific organisations offer practical help as well as checking on the wellbeing of individuals and households.

Ask for support – Work and Income

Dedicated COVID-19 welfare helpline number

We are running a dedicated 0800 COVID-19 welfare support helpline to ensure people get initial help for urgent needs, with more complex needs being coordinated by local providers.

Extra support if you have COVID-19 or are self-isolating - Unite against COVID-19

Help while you’re self-isolating - Work and Income

MSD is committed to supporting community food providers build capability so you can provide the support New Zealanders need wherever they are.

Care in the Community welfare response

Advice for organisations providing services to whānau in self-isolation quarantine (SIQ)

Food support funding allocation

$143.9m has been allocated to community food providers and for food provision to support whānau and households in self-isolation.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Read FAQs about Food Secure funding

Community Food Services Guidelines

We’ve put together this guidance to help you continue your invaluable work of providing food to those who need it.

This guidance:

  • covers how providers can continue to safely meet the needs of clients, service users, whānau and communities while minimising the risk of contracting COVID-19
  • applies a simple definition to show any specific advice for foodbanks, food rescue, freestores, and soup kitchens or community meals.

Changes to the COVID-19 settings

From 11:59pm on 12 September 2022, the COVID-19 Protection Framework (the ‘traffic lights’) was removed.

We recommend you review the changes on the Unite against COVID-19 website.

Critical wellbeing services

Food provider services are considered critical wellbeing services.

Critical wellbeing services are responsible for ensuring that they apply appropriate health and safety processes to protect their staff, volunteers and service users.

Guidance for community food services

This guidance has been prepared to ensure that community food services can operate safely within the COVID-19 environment.

The new COVID-19 changes allow for a great deal more freedom in how you operate your services. We advise that you spend time with your staff and volunteers revising your Health and Safety, and other related policies, to ensure they are fit for purpose. You will need to strike a balance between safe operations of your services, and equitable access for your clients.

Our general advice to community food providers is to consider how the following might be applied to keep your staff, volunteers and clients safe:

  • Operating a low-contact service
  • Limiting the number of people inside your building to allow for safe distancing
  • Offering flexible working arrangements, for example, staggered meal breaks, or staggered start and finish times to help with physical distancing
  • Having your teams work in different bubbles
  • Cleaning and disinfecting your workplace regularly and ensuring good hygiene practices
  • Ensuring safe food handling guidelines are followed
  • Following appropriate PPE and face covering requirements for staff, volunteers and clients
  • Ensuring that all staff and volunteers have access to your business continuity plan and are well briefed on new procedures.

The Ministry for Primary Industries website provides further guidance for food service, food retail and food manufacturing businesses.

Note: community food providers may prepare and cook food as long as they follow safe food handling guidelines.

Useful MSD resources

Information is available about:

  • Support from Work and Income
  • Listing on the Family Services Directory

Other useful resources

Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance (AFRA) food safety guidance

AFRA has released a Food Safety Guide that has been developed to provide clear and useful best practice advice to all people working in the food sector - from food donation, to transportation, processing and delivery.

This guide has been compiled through workshops with AFRA members and support from experts from within the public service, and academic and legal support from Simpson Grierson.

Kore Haikai food parcel standards

Kore Hiakai Zero Hunger Collective have undertaken research into what should constitute a standard kai pack in Aotearoa. This included a survey of many current foodbanks, which revealed a great deal of variation in current kai packs. They then received nutritional advice on what a whānau of 4 would require for one week.

These guidelines can be found below on the Zero Hunger website.

New Zealand Food Network (NZFN) purchasing service

You have the opportunity to use your funding to purchase food at discounted rates through the New Zealand Food Network (NZFN) bulk purchasing service. This enables food support organisations access to a better quality of food and nutrition at a better value, thereby spreading funding further.

Student Volunteer Army (SVA)

SVA provides a grocery service in some areas for those who may need to self-isolate but can afford to purchase their own groceries.

In some circumstances, SVA volunteers can deliver food parcels to people self-isolating.

To find out more about how SVA can support you work, please contact us at

More information for businesses

The following links provide further information on requirements and resources for businesses:

Contacting us

Our Food Secure Communities Team is here to support you with any queries or questions you have.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your relationship manager or contact us here:

Related links

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