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

The Open Food Network Community is adapting quickly to support community food enterprises to feed their local people. Here are some of the developments that we are hearing about. Please add anything else which might be interesting to others in the Network.

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 in this thread soon. If you have feedback on these or any other systems please note them in a reply here.

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. ie ‘Open Food Network Sail Cargo SE’

Sequencing multiple delivery drivers: With thanks to @SaraR 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: Following a question in our COVID webinar yesterday; here is where Stroudco Food Hub sources its insulated carrier bags which (with a freezer block in each bag) allow us 2 hours to get the produce from chilled storage to the customer.

A recipe for hand sanitiser: One of our food hubs is making sanitiser with vodka and tea tree oil.

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 hsare - just an audio recording explaining how this will work when the online shopfront is set up.

Closing an order cycle when maximum number of orders is reached: If you want to close an order cycle because you are not able to process any more orders there are several ways to stop taking orders.

If you just change the closing date of the order cycle to ‘NOW’ then this will stop new shoppers from starting an order. However, any shoppers who are part way through an order will be unable to complete and submit their order. Frustrating :unamused:

So we recommend creating a tag rule called ‘closed’ with the default rule being that any order cycle tagged closed is not visible by default. If you then apply this to an open order cycle then this will stop new shoppers from starting an order. However, any shoppers who are part way through an order will be able to complete and submit their order. :slightly_smiling_face:

Apologising when you have closed an order cycle early: If you have had to close an order cycle because you are not able to process any more orders, shoppers may be confused to see a ‘closed’ shopfront message.

One option is to create a ‘product’ which can added to a new order cycle which, when open, shows like this (below). It can then be tagged ‘closed’ when the active order cycle is open but then untagged and made visible when you have to close your order cycle early (see above).

If you would like to have permission to put this product on a ‘closed’ order cycle please email

Dealing with panic buying / maximum orders: Several food hubs are needing to limit the quantity of specific items in an order.

This is the text that Stroudco Food Hub puts on its shopfront message:
To manage demand, we ask you to limit your order to two of any item please. The exception is if you are placing a group order for your community, in which case please contact us first to let us know.

Orders will be delivery only and are limited to the following postcodes: GL5 1xx, GL5 2xx, GL5 3xx, GL5 4xx, GL5 5xx, GL6 6xx, GL6 7xx, GL6 8xx, GL6 9xx, GL10 2xx, GL10 3xx plus Nailsworth Town boundary

Click here to see a map version of our delivery zone. There will be a flat delivery charge of £5.

We regret that orders for postcodes outside our delivery zone, and orders that break the two-item rule will be cancelled . If this happens, we will let you know and refund your payment (minus a 5% processing fee). You are of course welcome to re-order within our rules (before the order deadline).

We welcome all feedback as we continue to find our footing in re-launching and appreciate your support and patience as valued customers. A big thank you to you all for being a vital part of our community!