COVID-19 advice for volunteers

UPDATED: Friday 9th December '21 - we are constantly updating our rules for FWHs in line with government advice, please check back daily.

The following advice applies to the UK. If OLIO-ing outside of the UK, please ensure you follow local Government guidance at all times

Can I still volunteer with OLIO?

Yes. FWH volunteering will continue but it must be done safely and in compliance with government guidelines, so please do not volunteer if you are unable to guarantee the following:

If you cannot guarantee these situations, you must pause or end your collection slot on the Volunteer Hub. Please make sure that the store is notified if nobody is going to collect.

On what authority has it been decided sharing can continue?

  • OLIO is a registered food business and we work with our Environmental Health Primary Authority to receive ‘assured advice’ on our FWH volunteering program
  • We have reconfirmed with our Primary Authority and our Food Safety Advisor, Sterling Crew, that saving surplus food from businesses not only can continue but also plays an important part in providing an essential service to the community, especially in the face of mounting food insecurity
  • It has been confirmed by the NHS and FDA that "the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is very low."

How do I distribute food safely?

We recommend using 'no-contact' pickups to leave food outside in a safe space for someone to collect:

  • Individual items can be grouped in a bag and labeled with the name of the receiver (if you don't have enough bags, please ask requesters to leave behind an empty carrier bag)
  • You will need to leave a collection box with a lid outside your door. This box must be within sight of your home
  • Agree precise arrival times with requesters
  • All collections should be staggered to ensure social distancing between requesters is maintained
  • A few minutes before arrival, requesters should notify you and you can place the bag in the box
  • Requesters should wait to collect form your safe place until you have given them the ‘go ahead’
  • Any hot or cold food items left in the box after 30 minutes must be discarded
  • Clean the box daily

By following hygiene guidelines you can minimise the risk to yourself and your community:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this as a matter of routine for at least 20 seconds
    • Before and after handling food, and especially after being in a public place, blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • Wash before and after setting items out/handling items
    • Wash before and after picking items up/bringing items home
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands thereafter
  • Click here for a visual guide

    Should I wear a mask when collecting/ distributing food?

    Please follow government advice and wear a face mask on public transport and in shops. Masks can help but are only effective when used in combination with frequent hand washing or sanitising.

    Should I wear gloves when collecting/ distributing food?

    You can choose to wear gloves, however, this must not replace any of the above hygiene recommendations. You must still wash your hands thoroughly at critical points of your collection/ distribution.

    Should I collect food items that are not packaged like pastries?

    According to NHS advice, it's very unlikely that coronavirus can be spread through things like packages or food so there is no specific food safety concern. However, we understand if you are uncomfortable sharing this type of food and you can choose not to collect it when you arrive for your collection.

    Can I ask a collector to confirm they're healthy/ feeling well?

    Yes. Please understand this may be a sensitive subject and should be approached with compassion.

    I have underlying health issues/I am in a higher risk age category, what do I do?

    We totally understand if you do not want to take the risk as this is a personal decision. Please pause or unassign from your collection slot on the Volunteer Hub until you are ready to continue collections.

    I have /someone I have been in close contact (up to 2 meters) with has coronavirus symptoms, what should I do?

    • You must self-isolate as per government guidelines - Please pause/skip your collection slot on the Volunteer Hub
    • We would greatly appreciate it if you can contact any user you have shared with in the 2 days prior to developing symptoms

    What if there is a confirmed case in the store I am collecting from?

    We will let you know as soon as we hear from the business. You can either collect from the store and follow all precautions outlined above OR pause your collections. Please note collections will continue if the store remains open to the public.

    I'm a squad captain, and lots of slots are uncovered, what can I do?

    Don't worry if your group is unable to fill collection slots. No one saw this pandemic coming, and we’re all in it together. However, what you CAN do is to encourage volunteers to make sure that the store is notified of every missed collection slot

    For more information on Coronavirus

    If you have a question that isn’t answered below please email us on so we can help and add it to our FAQs. 

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