Coronavirus: Food and medicine deliveries in Northern Ireland

By Alan Haslam, Emily McGarvey & Michael Sheils McNamee

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image source, Getty Images

If you are elderly or vulnerable and self-isolating because of the coronavirus outbreak, then getting food and medicine to your door is crucial.

It can be difficult to know where to turn to when supermarket delivery slots are full or if you don't have a support network to call on.

But help is available.

Here's everything you need to know, and who to contact, if you need to get food or supplies delivered.

Is there a central helpline to call?

Yes, there is. It's operated by the Department of Communities - you can call freephone on 0808 802 0020, between 09:00 BST and 17:00, seven days a week.

You can also email or text ACTION to 81025 to get in touch.

Why can't I just get a priority online shopping slot from a supermarket? Don't they have that service in England?

Yes, they do - in England, elderly and vulnerable people get priority for slots with major supermarkets, such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.

image source, Getty Images

However, the Department of Communities have said the online system used in England cannot be replicated here at the moment, as it is more complex.

It's the same in Wales and Scotland - only England currently has a set-up for priority grocery deliveries.

So what is being done about this?

The department has said it will provide food parcels to those most in need, with 10,000 set to go out to those who have been told to shield themselves indoors by GPs and those in critical need of food.

If you believe you are eligible for a food parcel then the main thing to do is to call the helpline number - 0808 802 0020.

What about my local shop? Will they deliver goods?

Quite possibly. When we talk about online grocery delivery, we're generally talking about the major supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.

However operators of local stores, such as Spar, Centra and SuperValu, have told us they are now running delivery services and have plenty of slots available for deliveries.

As to finding out if your local shop will deliver, there are some resources.

A useful tool is on the Consumer Council website - it's an interactive map that allows shoppers to see which businesses near you are delivering.

But, if in doubt, you can call your local shop and ask.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have been told of many, many instances of businesses starting up delivery services to get groceries and supplies to those who need it - so it may be a store close to you is now running that service.

Ok. What about local councils? Can they help?

Some councils have their own resources, helplines and teams that you can use if you are struggling to get what you need.

  • Antrim and Newtownabbey: Its website has a list of community support services that can help with shopping and medicine collections; it also has a list of local shops and restaurants offering home delivery services of groceries and hot food.
  • Ards and North Down: An interactive map on its website shows which local shops are offering delivery here (the information can also be viewed as a directory); the council also has two community support teams in place and an outreach programme for people who are potentially isolated and vulnerable - the best way to be referred to one of those teams is to contact the Department of Community helpline on 0808 802 0020.
  • Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon: A community hub on its website lists community support services and details on how to access help, including food and delivery services; there's also a list of local shops offering delivery and collection services here.
  • Belfast City: Have advised residents to follow their social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook to find organisations offering support; Community NI also has a list of partners providing community support in the Belfast area
  • Causeway Coast and Glens: A directory of community support is on their website - these organisations can help assist with food and prescription delivery, fuel and social contact; the council also has set up a coordination hub, which aims to ensure the most vulnerable are connected to support services - call the Department of Communities helpline on 0808 802 0020 for more
  • Derry City and Strabane: A list of community and charity groups are linked on its website; it's also making a £50,000 fund available to community groups providing services in the local area; has also launched a waste support helpline, for anyone experiencing a build up of household waste - you can call the helpline on 028 7137 6590, 9-5 Monday to Friday.
  • Fermanagh and Omagh: Its website has a list of organisations that can offer support with home deliveries, advice, telephone calls to combat isolation and other services.
  • Lisburn and Castlereagh: Information on local businesses running delivery services is here on their website.
  • Mid and East Antrim: A list of businesses offering home delivery across Carrickfergus, Larne and Ballymena can be found on their website, along with their times of delivery; there is also an interactive map, which residents can move around and use to find shops in their area offering delivery.
  • Mid-Ulster: The council has set up an emergency community support fund to give financial backing to groups providing support in the community with deliveries; it also has a list of local businesses that deliver on its website.
  • Newry, Mourne and Down: The council has set up a community coordination hub to help the areas' more vulnerable residents - the group will be distributing food parcels on behalf of the Department of Communities, you can contact the hub via the main helpline 0808 802 0020.

What other help is available?

Age NI offers an advice and advocacy service which provides older people with information, advice and support - you can contact them on 0808 808 7575, email or visit its website.

Mid & East Antrim Agewell Partnership covers the Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus areas and is offering a good neighbour scheme to help vulnerable people in the community by volunteering to drop off supplies at their door. You can contact them on 028 2565 8604 or email

Forward South Partnership offers a telephone helpline for anyone in South Belfast in need of support such as food parcels and prescription collections. It can be called on 07394569155, between 09:00 and 17:00, Monday to Friday.

Holywood Connects has launched for people in that area, offering a directory of organisations and groups that can support them with grocery deliveries, prescription pick-ups and counselling.

Community NI has a searchable database of organisations offering deliveries of food, groceries and prescriptions across Northern Ireland, which can be accessed here on its website.

Remember - the Covid-19 community helpline is being used to coordinate services across different council areas. You can access services in your area by calling it.

It can be reached on 0808 802 0020, emailed at or by texting ACTION to 81025.

This is a freephone helpline to assist those in vulnerable groups to access information, advice and guidance in relation to Covid-19 and is open from 9:00 to 17:00, seven days a week.