Food and Nutrition COVID-19 Resources

Food Safety Guidance for Meal Distribution

Sponsors of Child Nutrition Programs must ensure all state and local health and safety standards are met. This handout provides food safety guidance and resources for sponsors providing meals that are not shelf stable through either pick up/drop off sites or home delivery distribution methods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This guidance applies to all sites where Sponsors of Child Nutrition Programs currently have a food and beverage license through the Department of Health. If your site does not currently hold a food and beverage license, you must contact your state or local health sanitarian.

General Guidance for Delivery or Pick-Up Meal Distribution

Use mechanical refrigeration, hot holding equipment, or insulated containers when holding food in preparation areas for delivery or pick-up.

Keep hot and cold food separated when prepared for delivery or pick-up so that it stays out of the temperature danger zone. The temperature danger zone is between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Maintain cold food at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • Maintain hot food at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
  • Always use a thermometer to check food temperatures.

Plan order preparation and delivery to minimize the length of time food is out of temperature control.

Can I provide frozen foods, such as frozen chicken nuggets, or refrigerated foods for the family to re-heat prior to eating?

This practice is acceptable during the COVID-19 pandemic, as long as the conditions listed below are met:

  • Place food into food grade bags or packaging.
  • Provide the foods either frozen or refrigerated.
  • Provide a copy of ingredient lists (including any allergens).
  • Provide reheating/cooking instructions. Since many families may be using the microwave, we suggest simplifying those instructions by saying Heat all parts of the food to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If providing more than one day’s worth of meals:
  • Provide storage instructions, clearly identifying the menu items requiring refrigeration.
  • Instruct families to discard all refrigerated foods after seven days of receiving it.

Can I provide hot, ready-to-eat meals to families?

Yes. Hot food should be provided only if it is intended to be consumed upon receipt. Instruct families to consume hot foods immediately, within two hours of delivery or pick up. Provide instructions to families to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If delivering more than one day’s worth of meals, make sure to identify the foods that require refrigeration.


If you have additional food safety questions during school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact your state or local health sanitarian.