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What’s Inside the Government ‘Shielding’ Food Parcel?

Millions of people are currently shielding at home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Those ‘shielding’ are disabled people and the elderly who the government consider being the most at risk from the coronavirus. The government have put in place an emergency food and medicine delivery service for those shielding who are unable to get their own shopping. So you may be wondering what’s inside the government shielding food parcel?

What is the Government food parcel?

The government food parcel is a free weekly box of basic food and essential supplies. The boxes contain items that the government consider to be a week’s worth of food that an individual or family needs to live for one week.

Who are the Government food parcels for?

The message from the beginning of this pandemic has been that people must stay at home and only go outside if completely necessary (to buy food/medicine and exercise once a day).

Unless you are classed as ‘high-risk’ due to having underlying health issues, compromised immune systems, undergoing cancer treatment and the elderly, then you must shield for twelve weeks at home.

Personally, I have Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive muscle wasting condition with a weakened respiratory system. This makes me ‘high-risk’ and a member of the ‘vulnerable group’ which was confirmed after receiving my shielding letter from the Scottish Government.

Why is the Government food parcel important?

For the ‘shielding’ community we are having to rely on online food deliveries or the support of family/neighbours to go to the shops and buy our essentials. But what if we can’t order online food deliveries or have family/neighbours to help us? That’s when the governments shielding food parcels are vital.

Many of the big-name supermarkets have implemented a system giving those who are shielding priority delivery slots. You must have a government shielding letter in order to register as a priority customer with the supermarkets.

However, it’s not that straightforward and there are many ‘vulnerable’ people unable to secure priority delivery slots with any of the supermarkets.

A pile of food laid out on the carpet showing all the basic food essentials.

What’s Inside the Government ‘Shielding’ Food Parcel?

  • Bread
  • Semi-skimmed milk (long-life) x2
  • Cereal
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Cooking Sauce (pasta)
  • Rice
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Tangerines
  • Tinned chopped tomatoes x 2
  • Baked beans x 2
  • Biscuits
  • Tuna
  • Soup x 4
  • Tinned Meat
  • Coffee
  • Teabags (40 bags)
  • Shower gels
  • Toilet paper

Priority supermarket deliveries

I’m one of those unable to book a food delivery with any of the supermarkets. At the beginning of the lockdown and before I had my shielding letter, I was managing with a little difficulty to book slots week by week with Asda.

Now that I’m registered as a priority with Asda, I cannot get a slot at all. Nothing!

Even though I can’t get a delivery slot with Asda, they are the only supermarket who have contacted me and acknowledged I’m ‘shielding’. I’m still waiting to hear from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Iceland and Waitrose.

I have even had online accounts with Tesco, Sainsburys and Morrisons for years. So why am I not being registered as a priority with them?

I’ve even tried to book standard delivery slots with these supermarkets but all the slots are sold out due to such high demand.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just my experience. Thousands of others are having the same issues and left with no food or anyone to help and risking their health to go to the shops.

Watch our government food parcel unboxing video

How to order a Government food parcel?

The free weekly government food parcel boxes can be ordered via the SMS Shielding Service (details on the Government Shielding letter) or the local authority helpline.

There will only be basic food items in the government food boxes, so it been advised if you need period products to contact your local authority to make arrangements unless you can buy them with your online grocery shopping.

Who delivers the Government food parcel?

The Scottish Government have contracted Brakes & Bidfood to provide the groceries and deliver the boxes. At the moment, the food boxes do not cater for different dietary requirements.

The hope is that there will soon be an option to request vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free as well as boxes that cater to food allergies and religious restrictions.

The government shielding food parcels are a lifeline for thousands of people who are shielding at home with no family support or able to secure online food deliveries from supermarkets.

Have you struggled to book online food deliveries? Have supermarkets given you priority slots? Did you receive the government food parcel?

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What’s Inside the Government ‘Shielding’ Food Parcel?

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Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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48 Responses

  1. Hi Emma You made some interesting comments on the food boxes. Your contents vary slightly from mine. They mainly contain the same things every week but I have never had an onion! I received a delivery slot offer from Asda very quickly. I also received a slot offer from Tesco within a week which I didn’t take up. I think it depends if they deliver to your area already. I have Waitrose in my area and usually did a bit of shopping there. I sent them an email complaint that they had not contacted me offering a slot. The next day they gave me one. You could try complaining to the supermarkets that deliver to your area that they have not offered a priority slot to you.
    The food boxes are very basic. I think anyone would struggle without extra food from somewhere. Take care. Jean

    1. Hi Jean! Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your experience of receiving the food parcels. I’m happy to know that you have received delivery slots from Asda, Tesco and Waitrose. I agree – people will definitely struggle without extra food from elsewhere. Thanks again and take care! 🙂

    2. Hi Emma. I have received the food parcels and accept they have been very helpful. However I have only once had an onion, but got carrots and potatoes weekly. The parcels are a fantastic idea, but it would have been nice to have been advised of the day and time I would be receiveing it, I.e.: one week was a Friday, next a Thursday, delivery Times also differ from 06:30 to 15:00. The contents did differ once with Cornbeef, Cornflakes. All other times soup tomatoes, chick peas, Oats, Milk. When the boxes were being made was there a survey or a forum asking what would be ideal for the content. The delivery was also a concern, the parcel was placed on my door step so I was unable to open my front door!
      Last but not least, is there anywhere we could leave our comments should this be needed in the future as to what could be added to the parcels, and times of the delivery and set dates.

      1. Hi Raymond. Thank you for sharing your experience using the food parcels. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of anywhere to leave comments regarding future food parcels. My only suggestion would be to contact the Scottish Government or local MP. I hope you are well and take care.

      2. Do you still do food parcels buy any chance with this lock down and myself being disable I don’t go out at all please get back to me and let me no very greatful

        1. Hi Scott. Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, I can’t help with that. I am also disabled and received the food parcels during the first lockdown. I don’t have any control over this afraid. I would suggest you call your local authority who should be able to advise what is best or who can help. I hope you manage to get something sorted.

  2. Thanks for a very comprehensive article, what do you do if your food parcel is constantly short of some of the items like Tinned meat, Vegetables and some of the tins missing? I can’t find any where to complain.

    1. Hi Stan. Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you are having problems with your food parcels. Where in the UK are you based? I believe you contact your Local authority if you need help with food deliveries and they can also signpost you to other support services. Please let me know how you get on and if I can help at all. Take care.

  3. Apart from receiving 4 tins tomato soup, tinned tomatoes, beans in tomato sauce and tomato cooking sauce each week, the future is orange, my main complaint is that so many tins are bashed and milk packs squashed. One week all tins were well and truly bashed. Tea has been reduced to 15 bags and 8 coffees. Are we running out of money? Potatoes and bread very good quality. Deliveries very reliable. After bit of difficulty as account in my husband’s name, Tesco have been very good.
    Good luck everyone.

    1. Yes, the future certainly looks red/orange with the contents of the food parcel. Thankfully we haven’t had any bashed tins or milk. I’m sorry the contents of your boxes have been. I’m glad you’ve had success with Tesco. I’ve called them to fix my account as they’ve not activated mine as priority. Fingers crossed it will work out. Thank you for sharing your experience. Take care 🙂

  4. Hi Emma – great to see what is in the food parcel, though frustrating that there isn’t more vegan options for you!

    1. Hi Carrie-Ann. Thank you for your comment. Yeah, it’s frustrating, not just for us being vegan, but also for other with dietary and religious restrictions. Thankfully, we have managed to get food deliveries again and have cancelled the food parcel. I hope you are keeping well 🙂

  5. Hello

    Very interesting! I hope you get priority slots available soon from the supermarket.

    My boxes have red cabbage! Bit weird isn’t it? Takes ages to cook but they also include an onion and apples so they go well and I cook it in a big pan in one go for the week as there aren’t any other vegetables.

    Everything is white: bread, pasta, rice. Rather constipating (sorry haha!) …, I’m used to Wholemeal.

    They don’t cater for allergies despite mentioning this to them when they rang. I still received the item!

    Best wishes to all.

    1. Hi Flora

      Thank you for your comment. I have been able to secure slots with Asda and finally managed to get Tesco to register me as a priority.

      Yes, there is a lot of tomato based foods in the boxes. The people who select the food certainly love tomatoes. It would be nice to have more vegetables and foods that cater to people with allergies. A lot of time has passed now that they should be looking into catering for different dietary requirements.

      I hope you are keeping well. Take care!

  6. PS Potatoes yes, I also get lovely potatoes each week- sorry I said I got no other veg but I was thinking of stuff like broccoli etc

    Apples and oranges and loads of tomato stuff like soup, chopped, sauce. The people who select the food must truly love tomatoes!

  7. Hi, Emma. I registered for help before the end of March. My first food box arrived on 2nd June. No vegetables except potatoes. No tinned tomatoes. 2 tins of marrow fat peas – I had no idea what they are. One 840 gram tin of baked beans – I live on my own. Most items were unknown brands. White sliced bread with nothing to put on it. I wonder how many nutritionists helped to decide the contents of the box? So much for ‘5 a day’. This is what the ‘powers that be’ think is suitable for people with serious medical conditions. The Government was too slow to publish the shielding list to ensure access to deliveries. Thank goodness for kind friends and neighbours.

    1. Hi Georgia. Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so sorry you had to wait that long to receive your food box. That is not acceptable. Had you contacted the local authority when you weren’t receiving the box? I’m so glad you had friends and neighbours that were able to help you. Take care.

  8. We get 2 boxes ,far to much to tomatoes, 8 tins tomatoes soup ,2 tomato Bolognese sauce ,4 tins beans ,2 tins chicken meatballs in tomato sauce ,2 tins tuna ,bread ,rolled oats ,rice,spaghetti, potatoes,apples ,tangerines. Only going to take 1 box this time .

    1. Yes, there is definitely a lot of tomato based foods in the boxes. It would be nice if they switched the contents up a little for people. I hope you are keeping well Doris. Take care and have a good weekend.

  9. Hi Emma, really enjoyed your article. My first box arrived early April, the contents have not really changed, in fact I would say they are getting worse. Every week, spaghetti, rice, bread, milk, apples, satsumas, potatoes, carrots, porridge, baked beans, tomato soup, meatballs in tomato sauce, jar tomato pasta sauce, mackrel in tomato sauce or tuna in sunflower oil, tin of chickpeas, digestive biscuits, tin rice pudding. loo roll, travel shower gel & travel soap. Would love to have a different cereal, vegetable, change of soup flavour, or an Onion. Have never shopped online and have not been offered slots, tried by myself (god it takes hours). Got a delivery from major store with so many substitutions, never again, cannot afford to spend my pension on stuff I dont need or like.
    This doesnt mean I am ungrateful, but, what about elderly who dont own a computer.

    1. Hi Kate. Thank you so much for your comment. Most of the items you receive are the same as we got, but we didn’t receive chickpeas (being vegan I would have preferred them). We also didn’t get anything like rice pudding. I agree with you, a little change of items would be nice every so often rather than the same things over and over again. I’m sorry online food shopping isn’t working out well for you. I hope you are managing okay though and keeping well. Thanks again and take care.

  10. Very grateful for govement food box but don’t think we need now the soaps an shower gels. large tins of tomatoes to big for 1 person. for me now the bread. Milk. Tea. Coffee. Soups Tin of tuna Ham. Beans fruit. Would be sufficient for one person. But its been a wonderful service.

    1. Hi Pat. Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you’ve found the food parcel helpful during this time. It’s been a lifeline for so many people shielding. Take care.

  11. Weve had parcel every week, but no onions at all, no frey bentos pie, only once had tinned tomatoes, but no other veg or meals.

    1. Hi Hazel. Thank you so much for your comment and sharing what you don’t receive in your box. What do you receive instead of veg or meals?

  12. This is amazing, that food parcels are delivered to those shielding. Thank you to all involved.
    My mother is 93 she said that one was delivered on her doorstep but was stolen. She has no way of going to shops.
    I am wondering if she is confused about the circumstances.

    1. Hi Beverley. Thank you for your comment. Did you find out any more about the circumstances around your Mum receiving a food parcel? The boxes are left at the doorstep so your Mum’s may well have been stolen if she wasn’t able to bring it in herself on time. You can speak to your local authority as they may be able to help regarding the delivery if your Mum is unable to lift the box (they are very heavy). Do you live in Scotland or England?

  13. Well I’m diabetic and don’t eat carbs so pretty much everything in the box will be useless for me. How do you receive your box after registering on the .gov sit. Does it just arrive or are you contacted first. I’m kneels shielding and don’t have a clue.

    1. Hi John. Thank you for your comment. To receive the food parcels, you need to register via the SMS service. The details will be on the Government shielding letter. You can also call your local authority directly or via the free national helpline on 0800 111 4000. I hope you manage to get it sorted.

      1. I already registered on the .gov website but then it mentioned about registering with a store for a delivery slot. Is this something I need to do or is this something I need to do only if I want to pay for other products. Also my family are shielding with me for my protect, does the parcel also provide for your family because the question was never asked.

        1. Hi John. When you register for the food parcels, it will ask you how many boxes your need – one box for one person, two boxes for two or more people in the household. Has any supermarket been in contact with you to register you as a priority? You may have to go on the supermarket website and create an account if you haven’t already and contact them to link your online account as a priority. Did you receive the government shielding letter? Have you been receiving support with food deliveries during the lockdown?

          1. Have only just been shielded 3 weeks ago and only registered with the .gov site 2 days ago but had no contact from anyone so was just enquiring how it all worked. Will I be designated a supermarket due to my post code and will they contact me to ask how many boxes.

  14. For anyone unable to access delivery slots from the main supermarkets, it is worth seeing whether Iceland delivers to your postcode.
    I thought they only sold frozen food but they also sell milk, yougurts, eggs, fresh bread, fruit and veg, groceries, pet food, drinks, some household and cleaning materials…. everything you need but a more limited choice than the big supermarkets. If you spend £25 (the minimum) they charge £2 for delivery and delivery is free if you spend £35. This is lower than the supermarkets I have looked at. They have been very reliable and saw me through a difficult time.

    1. I was given a priority slot with Iceland but I have not used it. Although the freezer items are reasonably priced the grocery and household items are expensive because they are all big brand names. I’m only on a means tested benefit so don’t have a lot of money for food. At the minimum spend of £25 I wouldn’t get much for my money and even £35 or more for free delivery wouldn’t get me enough to manage on as I try to only shop monthly for most of my needs and tend to stick to the cheaper brands because that’s all I can afford.

  15. At first it took us weeks to be added to the list and we could not get a supermarket delivery slot either. Supermarkets took months. You could add yourself to the priority list through the government website if you lived in England but not in Scotland and we rang the supermarket phone line to ask to be added many times but after being read the whole speech about being patient it finished by saying they were too busy and ended the call. A veg box from a local farm kept us going on several weeks and there were many times we had no basics like bread. Then at first the shielding box was great but since then it has stopped twice without warning leaving us with no supplies until the council could get emergency food to us the next day. We are vegan and a large household so received 2 boxes but a lot of the food we could not eat and so had to give away to neighbours. On many weeks the tins were 6 tins of meat soup, 4 tins of fish, two meat pies, 2 cans of meatballs and 4 cartons of milk. There was no variety so we could not eat half of the food and just relied on the bread, potatoes and veg. There were quite a few things that people would feel was missing like spread or jam for the bread and a lot of people might have ventured out to get these items. But although it would have been good to make the box a bit more inclusive and less wasteful, I am very glad that there was a box at all. We were able to manage on this.

  16. I have never had any tins of meat, only had oat so simple,no cereal, and sometimes no soap or shower gel. Only ever received 2 tins soup and never any onions. Only had one fruit juice. Otherwise am quite happy with everything I get and so very grateful.The driver does not knock he just leaves it in my porch.

  17. Hi Guys
    Just a point about the food parcels which don’t gete wrong are helpful… But really there is serious issues on arrival. The i work in care homes making sure residents go nourishment and good quality homemade food not smart price un cheap unbranded names.
    Now thay worked really well yet our goverment think it’s OK to send these boxes each week with foreign spam, but unmamed bread I clear plastic wrapping, so rotten carrots, so apples for dwarfs. Now yes all help is welcome but come on the elderly espe ially deserve better. They will these people rely on this delivery only to bin half as its rotten. The bread is awful toast it and tou need a chisel to eat it gotta be 3mm thick or thin.

    Nedds addressing for mext wave guys

  18. I got my letter from NHS saying to stay home as extremely vulnerable so I applied 7 times online for a food parcel got automatic emails saying we will check and contact next week so gave up and have to go out for food

  19. Sadly, the food box scheme does not cover many vulnerable. Have family member who lives alone, is very isolated in the country, 10 miles from nearest village shop, 40 miles from town, dr etc and not on internet. has mobility issues, Multiple sclerosis and a host of other illnesses. Has to have injections every day and a cocktail of other meds. Yet is not considered high risk ! I tried to get help from their local authority to no avail, tried dr practice, the same. Told because they were not on a specific drug on the list for ms, then no. Clearly, the authorities do not look at situations in context. Only box ticking. Had to rely on country community help..otherwise, I dread to think. I couldn’t do much at 200 miles away. I am dismayed at people moaning about the contents of the boxes they get whilst being able to get grocery shopping delivered too…they have no idea how lucky they are.

  20. We have been receiving food boxes as we are in shielding ..please dont misunderstand me as we are not ungrateful but every week we have received…a frozen loaf.small bag of potatoes and carrots .4 apples 4 tangerines 10 tea bags 10 coffee satchets small tin tuna 2 tins tomatoes 2 tins tomato soup 2 tins chick peas 2 tins beans packet of white rice packet of spagetti 1 tin chicken meat balls in tomato sauce 2 toilet rolls n 2 each of travel size soaps and shower gel oh n a bag of oats and a tin of fruit cocktail . we received a leaflet describing he parcels and what was in them……tin of salmon??fray bentos pie ??? fresh pears ??? Corn beef ???? amongst other things…this week no potatoes or carrots just an extra packet of spaghetti instead…oh my poor bowels….Supermarket slots ??? Tesco ..dont go there most of what was ordered was never in stock or just not sent …terrible service…sorry for the rant …Hope everybody is keeping well and safe…anyone want a tin of chicken meatballs lol

    1. Hi Patricia. Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, I am unable to say if the Government will be issuing food parcels again. I would suggest speaking with your local council for up to date information regarding this.

    1. Unfortunately, I can’t help with that. I am also disabled and received the food parcels during the first lockdown. I don’t have any control over this afraid. I would suggest you call your local authority who should be able to advise what is best or who can help. I hope you manage to get something sorted.

    1. Unfortunately, I can’t help with that. I am also disabled and received the food parcels during the first lockdown. I don’t have any control over this afraid. I would suggest you call your local authority who should be able to advise what is best or who can help. I hope you manage to get something sorted.

  21. i am struggling for food and i cant leave my partner on his own because of illnesses and he got heart problems and liver dieases

    1. Unfortunately, I can’t help with that. I am also disabled and received the food parcels during the first lockdown. I don’t have any control over this afraid. I would suggest you call your local authority who should be able to advise who can help. I hope you manage to get something sorted.

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