How OFN is evolving to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis

The OFN team is here to support food enterprises online during COVID-19 and beyond.

We offer online drop-in calls for anyone who is new to the Open Food Network to have some help with the detail of opening their shopfront and starting to trade. We will be screen sharing. One of our experienced OFN shopfront managers will be sharing their screen, taking questions and walking through all the details of setting up an enterprise. Participants can also share their screen and be helped with anything they are stuck with.

These calls will happen:
– every Monday starting 6th April at 17.00BST on this zoom link and
– every Thursday starting 2nd April at 10.00BST on this zoom link

We have also set up a WhatsApp Group- contact us with your phone number and consent to be added.

Our whole community is also adapting quickly to feed their local people. Here are some of the developments that we are hearing about and that might be useful for you as well.

  • Phone buddies: Many of the people who are self-isolating do not have internet access. Several OFN hubs have set up phone buddy systems. This pairs up a shopper without internet access with a volunteer who takes their order for them. The volunteer can scroll through the product choices on the shopfront, read out product descriptions, prices, producer details, etc and then add items to the basket. At checkout the volunteer records the delivery details and takes the card payment. If the shopfront has allowed this customer to pay by cash or cheque on collection then this will be an option for the volunteer to select. Here is a training video for phone buddies .
  • Route planning: With the massive increase in home deliveries from OFN shopfronts we have been assessing various route planning systems. We are considering all these options and will make specific recommendations soon. If you have feedback on these or any other systems please share them with us.
  • Time slot for customer collection from pick-up points: To minimise the risk of infection, a new OFN integration gives shoppers who are collecting from a pick-up point a 5 minute window for collection. To make use of this integration please email
  • Time slot for producer deliveries: Again, to minimise the risk of infection, OFN food hubs are making use of the ‘receival instructions’ functionality on the incoming section of their order cycles to schedule a specific time for producers to deliver to the hub. Here is the user guide section to help you find this.
  • National courier service: Any OFN shopfront can set up a separate DropPoint account here and use this national courier service. They will need to put the words ‘Open Food Network…’ in the organisation name, i.e. ‘Open Food Network Sail Cargo SE’.
  • Sequencing multiple delivery drivers: With thanks to Sara at Tamar valley Food Hubs this is how they are scheduling the arrival and departure of delivery drivers to maximise social distancing and spread out the large number of orders going out for delivery to homes and pick-up points.
  • Handling chilled and frozen home deliveries: here is where Stroudco Food Hub sources its insulated carrier bags which (with a freezer block in each bag) will allow you two hours to get the produce from chilled storage to the customer.
  • Multiple order cycles: This ‘new user’ webinar focussed on the needs of a small bakery business that needs to adopt an online ordering and payment system to cope with their upsurge in orders. They need to set up parallel order cycles so that customers can order bread for delivery on Wednesdays, Saturdays or both Wednesdays and Saturdays. This was not a screen share – just an audio recording explaining how this will work when the online shopfront is set up.

One thought on “How OFN is evolving to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis

  1. rubina Reply


    I am running one of community centre in spark hill Birmingham we are delivering food to the venerable women and children can you tell me what kind of help we can have during this pandemic , If some one get back to me I will send our weekly reports ,


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