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The purpose of this document is to provide King County meal programs and homeless service providers with recommendations and resources that can help limit the spread of COVID-19. Meal programs and homeless service providers play a critical role in our community. They increase access to food for many vulnerable residents, often serving large numbers of people in short periods of time. Accordingly it is of great importance they take precautions to prevent illness while still maximizing their services.

In June 2020, Washington State adopted the “Safe Start” phased plan for reopening businesses. This approach guides businesses and organizations to re-open or resume operations, with safety precautions in place that focus on reducing the risk of COVID-19. Meal programs and homeless service providers are encouraged to follow the capacity and operational guidelines for restaurants/tavern as outlined by the Washington State Department of Health.

The recommendations and resources offered in this document can provide additional support.

Current phased reopening guidance for food service establishments

Additional recommendations for meal programs and homeless service providers

  • Review and modify your layout to allow for maximum physical distancing.
  • Provide protective barrier at entry for staff greeting guests, if needed.
  • Use directional signage to control flow of traffic.
  • Consider designating a staff person to greet guests as they enter, and manage lines and capacity.
  • Provide visual markers indoors and outdoors to encourage 6 ft. distancing in line, such as floor markings.
  • Position line of people waiting to receive meals, 6 ft. away from dining tables and chairs, or provide barriers to separate people in line from people dining. Avoid multiple lines.
  • Provide hand sanitizer/handwashing upon entry and other key areas throughout the facility to promote hand hygiene
  • Consider providing a secure storage area for larger personal belongings (e.g., suitcases, rolling carts, etc.)
  • Consider how food will be served for your program.
    • Self-serve style operations such as buffets and salad bars are allowed with restrictions. If your site provides self-service options, please review and implement applicable dine-in service procedures.
    • Cafeteria-style service can be done with adequate barriers and physical distancing between staff and guests being served.
    • Table service can be offered with low contact options. Ensure staff wear face coverings, and minimize the number of staff serving tables.
  • Avoid self-service condiments whenever possible. Consider offering single-use condiments instead.
  • Consider staggering meal times to avoid overcrowding. Allow enough time for disinfection between groups.

Consider offering low contact to-go meals for guests that can't be served by indoor dining.

Per the state health department and the Governor's guidance for restaurants, customers must wear a cloth face covering anytime they are not seated (while being seated or leaving, or while going to the restroom) and while they are talking at tables and not eating. As mentioned above, homeless service and meal program providers are encouraged to follow the guidance outlined for restaurants and taverns.

  • Ask guests to wear face masks upon entering facility, and anytime they are indoors and not eating.
    • If possible, provide to-go meals for guests who cannot wear a face mask or prefer not to.
    • Consider offering face masks for people who do not have one.

  • Provide signage that promotes wearing face masks and social distancing indoors when guests are not seated for their meals.
    • Post signage in high traffic areas (e.g., bathrooms) to avoid overcrowding.

  • Post handwashing signs at all hand sinks and hand sanitizer stations.

  • Remove outdated signage to reduce confusion

  • Signage to consider posting:
    • Food safety (for the kitchen)
    • Face coverings
    • Social distancing
    • Hand washing
    • Occupancy limits
  • Maximize HVAC systems to bring in as much outside air as possible.
  • Open as many doors and windows as possible during meal service to increase air flow. 
    • Note: do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a health risk to customers or staff (e.g. risk of falling or triggering asthma symptoms).
  • Follow guidance provided in Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting for Meal Programs and Food Distribution Operations.

  • Pay special attention to disinfection of frequently touched or shared surfaces
    • Discourage shared items.
      • Provide single service disposable items if possible.
      • Ensure adequate supply of food service utensils and products (e.g., serving spoons, plates, etc.)

    • Limit sharing tools, equipment, supplies by staff.

    • Avoid use of utensils and containers brought by guests.
  • Washing hands and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces are two of the best ways to defend against spreading the coronavirus.

  • Avoid using cleaning products that may damage car interiors. If possible, use chemicals that are safe on surfaces in your vehicle and also effective against Human Coronaviruses, such as alcohol-based disinfectant wipes (70% alcohol or higher).

  • Focus on high touch surfaces for daily cleaning and disinfection.
    • High touch surfaces include the steering wheel, door handles, shift lever, any buttons or touch screens, wiper and turn signal stalks, passenger and driver door armrests, grab handles, and seat adjusters.

  • Air out cars whenever possible, ensure folks wear masks when riding together, limit the number of people in one car at a time, and encourage hand sanitizer use when entering vehicles to limit the spread of germs.

  • Open windows to promote air flow.
  • Additional guidance is available from the CDC.

If your building has been closed for a period of time, take steps to ensure your water system is safe. More information online at: