Open Heart Kitchen has served an all-time high number of Tri-Valley residents in need since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Tri-Valley nonprofit Open Heart Kitchen is busier than ever as it looks to accommodate an influx of people seeking its services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Open Heart Kitchen — which serves prepared meals to residents of Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton — distributed more than 50,000 meals from March to May. Some 150 seniors have signed up for its senior meal program for the first time and the nonprofit said it has seen a 140 percent increase in senior meal counts since mid-March. Open Heart Kitchen saw a 75 percent increase in sign-ups for its community meal program during the early days of the pandemic.
“We’ve never seen anything like it, even in the days of 2008 [The Great Recession],” said Executive Director Heather Greaux. “Those numbers pale in comparison to what we’re seeing right now.”
The community meals program usually serves older adults and homeless residents, but saw a spike in young people with families who had never used Open Heart Kitchen’s services before. Many seemed to be embarrassed about their need to get help and said they were waiting for their stimulus or unemployment checks, Greaux said. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of people who were already having a difficult time getting by.
Preliminary data indicate that 14 percent of Alameda County residents were out of work in April, the most recent month for which data is available from the California Employment Development Department.
Public officials and news agencies spotlighted Open Heart Kitchen’s services in recent weeks and helped the nonprofit reach populations that it had never reached before. Open Heart Kitchen serves nearly four times as many Dublin residents as it had before the pandemic.
The pandemic also prompted Open Heart Kitchen to ramp up its street outreach program, in which volunteers offer services to people living in encampments, from one to six days per week.
Staff “had to develop programs overnight we thought would take years,” Greaux said.
The team is not only serving more people than before, but they’re spending more time than before counseling isolated seniors on the phone. It’s been an emotionally trying time for staff, Greaux said, but they’ve shown great creativity and have really grown.
To community members and foundations interested in contributing to Open Heart Kitchen, Greaux asked that people increase their payout. Many are saving for a rainy day and “now is that time,” she said.
Source: Patch.com, June 15, 2020