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Community food providers guidance overview

We’ve put together this guidance to help you understand the COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF), also known as the 'traffic light' system, and 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 traffic light system

An updated COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF) that allows for greater freedoms came into effect at 11.59pm on 4 April 2022.

Under the CPF or 'traffic light system', most people with COVID-19 will isolate in the community. New Zealand's CPF was revised as Omicron cases peaked.

The April 2022 updates include changes to:

  • vaccination certificates or passes
  • capacity limits for indoor gatherings
  • face coverings or masks
  • QR codes and record-keeping
  • vaccination mandates.

We recommend you review:

  • these changes carefully
  • your vaccination policy for your staff and volunteers and seek legal advice if you are unsure.
  • See changes to the traffic lights – Unite against COVID-19

    Critical wellbeing services

    Food provider services are considered critical wellbeing services and can open under Red, Orange and Green traffic light settings.

    Critical wellbeing services are responsible for ensuring that they apply appropriate health and safety processes to protect their staff, volunteers and service users, as well as adhering to restrictions under the Health Order.

    Community food services guidance

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

    We recognise that these definitions will not suit all initiatives and that some organisations have hybrid models or use different terminology. This may mean that different services within your organisation may fall into different categories under the Health Order. You will need to adapt your services accordingly.


    Definition: An activity where chilled, ambient and frozen foods are collected and assembled into a parcel which is distributed to service user (whānau).

    Read the guidance for foodbanks

    Food rescue

    Definition: An activity where chilled, ambient and frozen food is collected, processed and redistributed to other providers or community organisations.

    Read the guidance for food rescue services


    Definition: An activity where cooked or prepared food and other grocery items are collected for immediate distribution to service user.

    Freestores who meet the definition of "An activity where surplus chilled, ambient, and frozen foods are collected (recused), sorted, and distributed directly to service user (whānau)" should refer to the Foodbanks guidance.

    Read the guidance for freestore services

    Soup kitchen and community meal

    Definition: An activity where food is cooked or prepared for immediate distribution to service user, who would usually eat on-site.

    Read the guidance for soup kitchen and community meal services

    MSD’s role in the COVID-19 Protection Framework

    MSD is leading the coordination of the welfare approach under the traffic light system, called the Care in Community welfare response.

    MSD is working closely with key agencies and groups across the health, housing, education, economic and other sectors, and with iwi and Māori. This includes coordinating the response to support organisations that are providing food in the community, including those who receive funding to provide food support to support people isolating at home under the Framework.

    As more people with COVID-19 and their whānau self-isolate around New Zealand under the traffic light system, there will be more requests for help from community food providers, and they will come from more parts of the country.
    Each region will have 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.

    People who test positive and need support can either:

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

    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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