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Food Bank Logistics During COVID-19

Case Study Last Reviewed: July 6, 2020

State, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments can partner with private organizations to support the logistics of purchasing and distributing large amounts of food donations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and corporations donated freezers for food storage, and restaurants and caterers donated excess food from business closures and cancelled events.

The following is a list of key findings and considerations for jurisdictions and communities regarding ongoing COVID-19 pandemic operations across the country. These are best practices for consideration and do not constitute and should not be considered as guidance in any way.

This document contains references and links to non-federal resources and organizations. This information is meant solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be an endorsement of any non-federal entity by FEMA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or the U.S. government.


  • Legally responsible state, local, tribal, and territorial governments may enter into formal agreements or contracts with private organizations, including private nonprofit (PNP) organizations such as food banks, to purchase and distribute food when necessary as an emergency protective measure in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. In these cases, Public Assistance (PA) funding is provided to the legally responsible government entity, which would then reimburse the private organization for the cost of providing those services under the agreement or contract. When necessary as an emergency protective measure, eligible work related to the purchase and distribution of food in response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes:
    • Purchasing, packaging, and/or preparing food, including food commodities, fresh foods, shelf-stable food products, and prepared meals;
    • Delivering food, including hot and cold meals if necessary, to distribution points and/or individuals, when conditions constitute a level of severity that food is not easily accessible for purchase; and
    • Leasing distribution and storage space, vehicles, and necessary equipment.

Potential Best Practices

  • MANNA FoodBank, a member of Feeding America, provides an online form for food banks to request refrigerators and freezers that have been donated by individuals or corporate partners.
  • Food Rescue US has turned to establishments (e.g. college campuses, convention centers, restaurants) that are donating food to assist with long-term food storage as well. Some individuals have reached out to offer vans and box trucks for transportation.
  • Excess meals from canceled conferences and events can be donated to food banks.
  • Restaurants that close as a result of a pandemic can allow employees to take home perishables, and any remaining food can be donated to local organizations.