Your commitment to delivering healthy food to your community is something to be proud of. And you should be especially proud of operating your mobile farmers’ market in any way you can during these unprecedented times.
Running a mobile farmers’ market during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy. And even though COVID-19 has eased its grip on humanity somewhat, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
So, it’s helpful to continue operating your mobile market with certain health and sanitation guidelines in mind. We’ve compiled a list of best practices that will help you with day-to-day operations.
Having guidelines like this in place helps protect both your team and your community and helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
1. Train Your Team on Sanitation Protocols
Your mom was right when she was always hounding you to wash your hands. And it counts now more than ever. So make sure all your staff and volunteers understand and apply sanitation protocols recommended by the CDC,1 CFIA,2 and WHO.3 After all, they are the experts.
Here are some general tips to mitigate the spread of infection:
- Try to get a portable hand washing station4 if you can. And make sure to wash your hands correctly – and often – with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.5
- If there’s nowhere to wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.6
- Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm, or use a tissue. Make sure to wash your hands afterward.
- Avoid touching your face; especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Keep a generous space (6 feet or 2 meters) between you and your customers, and between your customers waiting in line.
Our mobile market trucks come with a built-in cold water sink to help your team maintain a high level of sanitation wherever they go. Check out The Farmers’ Truck here.
2. Disinfect Surfaces Before & After Every Stop
It’s very important to sanitize the vehicle (steering wheel, seat, door, and handle), and your belongings (keys, phone, wallet) regularly. Make it part of your mobile market covid checklist so that it doesn’t get forgotten on those busy market days.
Clean surfaces by first cleaning with detergent or soap and water. This helps lower the number of germs on surfaces. Then to kill the virus, follow up by applying a disinfectant.7 There are even several products that will both clean and disinfect all at once, which is a great time-saver.
- Diluted household bleach solutions (mix ⅓ cup of bleach per gallon of water, or 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of cool water).8
- Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.
- EPA-registered household disinfectant.
3. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) For Everyone
Make sure there’s ample access to gloves, soap, face masks, sanitizer, and other supplies like tissues, paper towels, and waste containers with a plastic liner.
Here are some guidelines on how to use gloves:
- Learn how to remove gloves safely.9
- When changing tasks or moving to another location, gloves should be removed, hands washed or sanitized, and new gloves applied.
- Remember that gloves are not a substitute for good hand hygiene. Washing your hands is your best defense against infection.
What about face masks? Well, according to the CDC,10 a person should wear a mask:
- When a healthcare professional recommends it.
- If you’re in a public place (even outside) around a lot of people.
- If you’re indoors and you’re unsure of the ventilation.
- If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, are taking care of someone infected, or are showing symptoms.
- And whenever you feel like it’s a good idea.
The CDC now uses “Community Levels”11 to measure how serious the COVID-19 threat is in any given county. This helps local officials determine if they should change the local requirements for face masks.
So, while most places around the country don’t require you to wear a face mask, that could change depending on how severe COVID-19 is in your community.
It’s important to stay up-to-date12 and flexible so you can ensure that your mobile market is operating within local COVID-19 guidelines at all times.
4. One Customer at a Time
When someone coughs or sneezes, small droplets escape from their nose or mouth. If you’re too close, you can breathe in those droplets, which can carry COVID-19 if the other person is infected.
To minimize virus spread, encourage customers to form a line and make sure they maintain #SocialDistancing between each other. You can use ropes and/or cones to help with your lineup and to take the guesswork out of proper distancing for those in line.
Serve only one customer at a time and make sure to protect yourself and your customer during the entire transaction. The nice thing about mobile farmers’ markets is their outdoor shopping experience. It’s a little safer than having to shop inside a crowded, poorly ventilated grocery store.
5. Let Your Staff Do the Shopping
Before COVID-19, it was commonplace to touch and smell fruits and veggies when shopping. But things are different now, and you want to encourage as many safe practices as possible.
One way to do this is by reducing the number of times food gets touched by different people. Anyone else channeling their inner MC Hammer right now?
(By the way, it’s yet another reason why we love supporting strong community food systems. A shorter supply chain means fewer people touching your food, and so less possible contamination.)
At market events, get customers to point out what they intend to buy then a staff member can get it and bag it for them. This way you can mitigate contamination of the product area.
Consider offering pre-bagged produce options. Unfortunately, this also means cutting out samples, unless you can safely offer them.
Get yourself queue line posts13 to create a barrier between customers and the vehicle so that the produce is out of reach. If possible, assign staff to:
- Greet customers and control traffic.
- Manage produce and grocery distribution.
- Cashier duties.
6. Focus on Electronic Transactions
Instituting electronic forms of payment as part of your mobile farmers’ market COVID-19 guidelines is a must. (If you don’t have a credit/debit card terminal it’s time to get one.)
This preventive measure is being adopted by most retailers to avoid unnecessary contact with others and to maintain social distancing. Even for those using SNAP benefits to buy food, it’s a bonus of being able to use their EBT card14 as a form of contactless payment, rather than cash.
But it’s also important to be inclusive and sometimes cash is all that people have. If you do decide to accept cash, you should have someone dedicated to handling this to avoid cross-contamination. If you don’t have that luxury, make sure to sanitize your hands after every transaction.
7. Give Guidance on How to Properly Clean Produce
Washing produce15 might be something that some people didn’t know they should be doing, or simply forget to do. And even though the risk of getting COVID-19 from food or packaging is very low, washing produce is still a good habit to get into.
It’s also a good idea to remind each of your customers to do it before they consume any produce at home. Why not take it a step further and give them a quick set of instructions to go along with their purchase.
Some handy guidelines include:
- Give fruits and vegetables a good rub & rinse under running water.
- Do not wash fruits and vegetables with soap or disinfectants.
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home.
- Use soap and disinfectant to clean countertops, cutting boards, and utensils before and after preparing food.
8. #Staysafe While Helping Each Other
Even though the world has changed and we are all adjusting to a new reality of living with COVID-19, some good has come out of this. More people have realized the importance of eating healthy, helping others, and of the need for a strong community.
Mobile markets can play an important role in supporting all these things. As long as your mobile farmers’ market stays up-to-date with local covid guidelines, you can be there for your community when they need you the most.
And despite health and safety guidelines, you can still provide a fun and inclusive shopping experience for your customers. For some, it could be a welcome reprieve from the negative effects that COVID has had on our mental health.
So if you’re looking for more guidance and training on operating your mobile farmers’ market contact us today.
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | CDC
- CFIA information on COVID-19 – Canadian Food Inspection Agency
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- How soap kills the coronavirus
- Safely Using Hand Sanitizer | FDA
- COVID-19: Cleaning and disinfecting – Canada.ca
- Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Disinfecting with Bleach
- Proper Glove Removal Technique
- Mask Guidance | CDC
- COVID-19 Community Levels | CDC
- These States Have COVID-19 Mask Mandates
- Queue Way – QWAYPOST-33-D4 – Black Post, 2″ Wide, 7’6″ Length Chevron Black & Yellow Belt (Set of 2)
- How to Safely Wash Fruits and Vegetables During the Coronavirus Pandemic