Australian Fair Food Forum

COVID-19 - how is your food enterprise responding?

COVID-19 is already having an impact on food supply. How do we support direct supply chains that keep farmers in business? How do we keep our shelves stocked with food? What happens to farmers’ markets as public gatherings get shut down?

We’re doing our best to help producers and distributors keep the food supply network running. Here are some ideas on how we can all work together:

Share ideas

One of our core beliefs is that knowledge should be open and shared, so that we all get stronger together. We are running weekly webinars, starting on Wednesday March 18 to share practice: Please register for the first one so that we have your details and can stay in touch, then you can just return using the same webinar link. They are 7pm Wednesday AEDT. We chose this time as it seemed convenient to those out in fields all day/running community food enterprises alongside a day job in Australia, plus it opens up the possibility of cross-country learning with European and UK colleagues, but we can change this if needed (just comment below if you think there’s a better time).

How are others packing food? Delivering? Staying safe? We will be inviting our Open Food Network community around the world to participate and share ideas and initiatives across the globe. Please join us at the webinar above, or share your ideas below on this Fair Food Forum post.

Set up your supply chain

If you’re a farmer and suddenly running your own supply chain, you can use our software to create an online shop that manages your orders, gives you packing and delivery reports, and allows you to manage your stock easily.

Our software is also the only food software that also enables you to collaborate with other farmers, so that each of you can manage your own stock levels and receive accurate delivery and packing reports, invoices, etc.

If you want to get started, you can register here:

If you need guidance getting set up, check out our user guide:

If you need extra help getting set up, you can join our webinar, at 5:30pm Tuesday March 17:

Support farmers

If you are looking for food in your local area, there is most likely an increasing number of options! (If the number of new farmer shop sign-ups this week is anything to go by)

You can buy your food from a local farmer or food hub:

How else can we help? Let us know

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The Australian Farmers Market Association have issued these suggestions:

@bawbawfoodhub shared this approach: Important announcement - please read and share📡 We’re making some changes, to make sure that we are looking after people’s health and safety, as well as we possibly can.
Starting tomorrow, the Tuesday shop, from 3 until 6 pm, will ONLY be open to veggie box subscribers, Working Members and Supporting Members. This is to reduce the number of people in the shop, allowing for social distancing and sufficient time for staff to sanitize surfaces.
The hours for the rest of the week remain exactly the same as normal, and are open to everyone.
The Hub is open on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 am until 6 pm, and on Saturday, from 10 till 1 pm.
We have also introduced a number of other measures, including asking people to stay away if they are unwell, hand sanitizing at the entry door, single-use shopping baskets, and asking people to avoid handling any produce unless they are purchasing it.
We are also asking people to limit their purchases to a normal weekly shop, to ensure that we can supply everyone with what they need
All the details are in a special edition of our newsletter, going out today.
Alternatively, you can download an information page, here.
Thank you, Hub community for joining us in doing whatever is required to keep the Hub’s doors open!
Baw Baw Food Hub

@ChrisE shared the CERES Fair Food precautions and adaptations in their newsletter:
Meanwhile, at the Fair Food warehouse the enormous increase in orders is telling us how important grocery delivery is going to be for people.

We’ll be doing everything we can to look after each other so we can stay healthy and keep delivering through the crisis.

These are our COVID-19 housekeeping rules;

- Stay home if you have symptoms or contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case

- Everyone coming to the Fair Food warehouse washes or sanitises their hands before they enter

  • Packing crew wear gloves (we do this already)

- Drivers sanitise hands in between every pick-up and delivery

- Drivers are Knocking-and-Dropping grocery orders

- Cardboard boxes will be recycled instead of being reused

- Frequently touched surfaces are regularly cleaned

During the crisis we’re going to continue our free home delivery offer on orders over $75 as well as continuing free delivery to Food Hosts for all orders.

Here is our post that went out to our (Edithvale Community Greengrocer) box getters today;

" Hey folks, this week we are operating business hours and weekly box delivery as usual - but we are taking more precautions as we do it. We are also gearing up for whatever the next few weeks and months will bring which may impact how we operate, but we expect that it will not stop us from bringing you local, organic produce from our lovely farming friends - however it may change how we do things slightly. Scroll to the bottom for all the info (there’s lots of it!).

:package: Here’s what is in this weeks box of local goodies

Small: Sweet Potatoes, Lettuce, Zucchini, Corn, Avocado, Oranges & Raspberries

Medium: Cherry Tomatoes, Silverbeet & Pears

Large: Cucumber, Broccoli Shoots & Brown Onion

We are adaptable and prepared and feel strong because we are supported by a great team and you lovely local families. This is the way all small businesses have to be, especially ones like ours who are choosing to combat climate change in our local area. We are almost in a better position than most businesses who are reliant on large, complex and international supply. Because we are hyper local we operate in a different economic environment that is more resilient and adaptable - that’s how we designed it and we have always been ready for when things get tough. So now we are feeling ready to feed our community and to support our local growers through the spread of COVID-19. That may mean in the coming weeks will migrate (temporarily) to increasing deliveries and decreasing shop hours as things progress and restrictions increase. Please keep an ear out for changes in the coming weeks, we will be sure to let you know. And if you know anyone who comes into the shop, let them know about box delivery which may be the way to go to make sure they also secure produce - we had a record busy day on Saturday and most produce was sold by 11AM.

Here are some of the measures we and you should be taking;

  • If we as workers are not feeling well (even just a little) we won’t be working in the shop or packing boxes.

  • Please know, us workers will be washing our hands even more than usual and making sure we go about packing your produce conscious of the current climate.

  • We will be cleaning our hands between every delivery drop.

  • We will be packing with gloves for the foreseeable future.

  • We will be cleaning your returnable crates before we pack into them, but we ask you also to do this and that way they will be extra sparkling clean.

  • We will be requesting raspberries in plastic punnets for the next few weeks - just note we will not be reusing these at our stores so please recycle these at home. We still hold zero waste food as a high value, but we need to make this temporary change to meet a higher food standard during this time.

  • In the store, all our berries will be pre-bagged or in punnets to avoid too may hands on the produce.

  • Please wash all your produce. Yes, it’s organic and unsprayed, but these are different times, so take extra care please.

  • Our local growers are still tending the fields and harvest are still coming regularly so we are continuing to visit our friends and have produce for our families. We are making sure the way we do things in and around the shop is even cleaner and even more thought out than usual. We care about you having access to sustenance that we need now more than ever, and we will continue to support our local growers and food bowl consciously"

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From @tess_sellar, @Ant, and co:
We take growing food and feeding our community very seriously. We love doing it, but for all of us at the Co-Op one of the big reasons we got into farming is because we believe that the industrial and global food system is extremely fragile and when something like the coronavirus happens, we can start to see the truth of that.

We take the health, safety and wellbeing of our community and ourselves seriously and through this ever-evolving situation we are doing everything we can to both continue to feed you and stay healthy ourselves. Every week, from produce grown on our farm, we feed well over 200 local households. If we get sick, those people don’t get our produce.

We are taking more stringent health and safety precautions both on farm and at market (and everywhere in between) to make sure our produce gets to you clean and safe. We will be trying out a new system at the markets this week. It will be a little slower, but it’s the best we can come up with at this point.

The current advice from government is that farmers markets are exempt from the ‘no gatherings of over 500 people’ rule as outdoor food markets are a vital part of keeping communities fed and healthy. Our weekly market doesn’t have 500 people in attendance at any one time any way, but we’re still being careful.

We will continue to adapt our systems, as we need to. But for this week this is how the market will look at our stall:

  • We will have a ‘number’ system (Deli style) to prevent people having to cue.
  • We will call out your number and personally serve you so that only our sanitized hands touch your produce.
  • Please bring a basket, bag or box to carry your produce home in.
  • We are encouraging everyone to pay by card where possible as handling cash can be unhygienic.
  • We will be sanitizing our hands frequently throughout the market.
  • Please make sure you also wash all produce before you eat it.

If you aren’t able to make it to the market or farm pick ups because you are self isolating, please get in contact. We will deliver if needs be, though it is definitely not our preference.

If you are unwell or have been around anyone who is unwell, please don’t come to the market. Get in touch and we can work out an alternative so you can still get produce. We need to stay well so we can keep feeding the people!

It can be easy to let fear and paranoia take over. We are doing our very best to take a measured, clear and preventative approach to feeding the community.

Stay healthy and well, care for each other and don’t forget to check on your neighbors and friends. In these times of increased ‘social isolation’ lets all find ways to stay connected and strong.

The Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op team (Sas, Mel, Tess, Ant, Katie, Hugh and Merv)

How one group in the US are operating: Repost from @ballerinocreamery

Here’s our plan: you order local veggies, meat, bread, coffee and, of course, cheese. We carefully bring it to your car with gloves and a thankful wave. It’s called the Local Food Drive-Thru. Order online. Pickup at @newtownbakingandkitchen. Other participants include @geezerfarm @tragerbroscoffee @malcolmsmarketgarden and @polyfacefarm. Order today through the Newtown Baking website. #communitythroughfood #eatwellstaywell #localfooddrivethru #eatclean #supportyourlocalfarmer #communitygarden

Just for a bit of context, here is what our ‘new’ delivery/members map looks like.
We have 130+ weekly households all within ~2kg from our ‘micro food hub’ / greengrocer.

Before (last week) -> After (next week)
TUES 45 Deliveries -> 56 Deliveries
WED 46 Pick-ups -> 35 Deliveries
FRI 43 deliveries -> 45 Deliveries

Now, there is still a growing waiting list, and some shop regulars who haven’t been captured, but regardless we are deep in ‘logistic thinking’ working out how to tackle this smartly. Maybe two batches’ sent out in one day, so we can keep packing while the first load is out delivering?

Either way, we are very thankful we have been so clear on our delivery boundaries over the last 4 years. And chuffed to see how many streets we are reaching in our little seaside suburb! Equally as grateful to have so many supportive people so close to home.

Advice from the Victorian health dept:

Some suggestions from the Pennsylvanian Ag Dept for farmers markets:
And for Farms/On-farm deliveries:

The most comprehensive list of washing and sanitising advice I’ve seen so far:
If you’ve seen something better please share!

Key relevant bits:
On our virtual sofa, we spoke with resident expert and senior food microbiology consultant, Cathy Moir. Here’s what she had to say on all things food and coronavirus. Grab a cuppa and settle in.

We research foodborne microorganisms. This ensures Australians continue to feel confident the foods we buy are safe to eat. We have a key role in food safety research globally. And we provide advice for Australian consumers and industry. At this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know messages can be confusing. So here is some advice about the risks of respiratory coronavirus and food in your home.

What is the risk of getting COVID-19 infection through food?

There is no current evidence you become infected by eating the coronavirus. It’s a respiratory virus transmitted mainly via nose and eyes, not a gastrointestinal virus. The acid in our stomach is expected to inactivate the virus.

Should we be washing uncooked foods like fruit and vegetables more than usual?

It’s not sensible nor practical to wash all the food you bring into your home especially at this point in time when we’re not seeing widespread environmental contamination, nor extensive community transmission of the coronavirus in Australia.

My advice is from both a practical and food safety perspective. Washing fruit and vegetables in fresh water just prior to eating is enough. This aligns with advice from the US Food and Drug Administration. Please note – hand soap or dishwashing detergent are not designed for direct use on food.

However, at this time of heightened concern, the best advice is to wash your hands with soap – before and frequently – when preparing food and handling food packaging. Washing your hands and not touching your face will minimise the risk of getting an infection after touching surfaces or food packaging.

Remember, there is no evidence you get a respiratory coronavirus infection from eating it. Extra tips for cleaning fresh fruit and vegetables are available on the ABC.

Should we be eating uncooked food, like fruit, vegetables and salads?

Yes, please continue to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and salads. There is no evidence to suggest you become infected from eating coronavirus. The best advice is to wash your hands with soap when preparing fruit and vegetables and to rinse fresh produce with water just before you eat it.

What temperatures do viruses like to live in? Should we be refrigerating foods that we wouldn’t normally?

Viruses don’t ‘live’ or grow outside of their host, they merely exist until they are able to infect their next host. So there is no need to refrigerate food that you wouldn’t normally.

What is the risk of getting coronavirus from surfaces?

The coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 infection is a respiratory virus. It is typically transmitted via respiratory droplets. These come from coughing, sneezing or close contact with other people. Infection may occur if the virus reaches our mucous membranes – eyes, nose and airways. Also after we have touched a contaminated surface and then our face. This is why good personal hygiene is the best way to avoid infection.

Three important things to remember:

  1. Wash your hands properly and frequently. Including washing your hands when you get home and before preparing food, which you should do anyway.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  3. Sneeze and cough into your elbow or a tissue and put used tissues straight in the bin.

Some additional hygiene advice is available on the Australian Government Department of Health website. Or read more about how the virus spreads.

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

We don’t know this yet for the virus responsible for COVID-19, but we’re working to find out.

Coronaviruses can survive on surfaces for between hours and days. It depends on the type of surface, the temperature and humidity. Therefore we need people to focus on personal hygiene measures. Washing your hands properly and frequently and not touching your face are key.

What about cleaning at home? What sanitisers should we be using?

Again, we don’t know this yet for virus responsible for COVID-19, but we’re working to find out.

Cleaning should be done before sanitising as dirt can render some sanitisers less effective. Sanitising is different to cleaning – cleaning removes dirt, dust and some microbes. Sanitising is done to inactivate microorganisms.

Regular cleaning of surfaces at home is important. Cleaning with mild soap and water may be entirely adequate assuming there’s no reason to think your home is highly contaminated. The coronavirus is an ‘enveloped’ virus which makes it fairly weak when it comes to cleaning. Soap breaks down the virus envelope, making it inactive.

The following sanitisers have been shown to be most effective at inactivating coronaviruses:

  • Ethanol 62-71 per cent for 30 seconds
  • 0.5 per cent hydrogen peroxide for one minute
  • 0.1 per cent sodium hypochlorite for one minute

Not all of these may be available or practical for use in the home environment. And importantly, more concentrated DOES NOT mean greater kill! Always follow the instructions for use on the container.

Hi everyone, Here’s the link to my open letter - please EDIT AWAY!!
Unfortunately, I can’t attend today’s call because I have Qld social enterprise meeting on at the same time. Hopefully Pekin can represent.

Cheers, EK

Have fixed the sharing / access issue now - sorry team!!

Folks we will be discussing @EKR’s proposal :point_up_2: today in the Open Food Network shared learning webinar at 4pm, with the aim to finalise and send. Please join us to contribute! Just drop us a line to to be added to the zoom call

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We’ve been working with Australian and international research partners to put together a research survey that is attempting to capture data about the impact of COVID19 on local food supply networks, and the resilience of these networks.

We would really appreciate you sharing this survey with your networks:

Over the past months we’ve heard on-the-ground stories of this sector’s resilience and how farmers, markets, and food hubs are responding to support communities. We need to build the evidence base that demonstrates that value, and helps funders and others understand the gaps in support for this sector. We also hope that gathering this info while it’s fresh will provide valuable lessons on how people responded, and will help people prepare for other food system shocks in the future.

Answers to the questions are being collated into an open data base which anyone can draw on following this event. (link available on the survey page) We will also make sure we pull out key findings into easy to access info sheets or posts.