Looking Back and Forward as We Plan for Open Hand’s Future

Matt Pieper
Executive Director

So much has transpired at Open Hand these past 12+ months that has both underscored our resilience and ability to adapt, and informed our thinking as we plan for our future mission impact. Challenges became opportunities. Questions led to an even deeper understanding how we can meet our clients’ needs, first and foremost, while simultaneously achieving operational efficiencies  without compromising our commitment to quality. Ultimately, our resiliency and resourcefulness resulted in our ability to serve more individuals in one year than in any other previous year in our history — a tremendous source of pride for our many Open Hand employees, volunteers, donors and partners.

Of the many changes we implemented in order to respond to the pandemic, the one that is perhaps most notable is our decision to deliver our meals frozen instead of chilled. As the pandemic began to take its toll, we soon began to receive requests from severely impacted rural areas throughout the state in dire need of our services. To serve them, our team simply had no other option but to step up and accept the challenge. Of course, while statewide expansion to meet the needs of rural communities throughout Georgia has been one of the key tenets of our most recent strategic plan, the resources, planning, and operational efficiencies required to do so were simply not yet in place. But we forged ahead. Armed with the knowledge that freezing meals would not compromise the nutritional value, taste or integrity of our freshly prepared meals, we began to ship meals by the thousands. And it is now the delivery method we currently utilize for all of our clients.

Making such a major shift in our operations so quickly was quite an undertaking. And we couldn’t have done it without a significant  investment from the Ford Motor Company Social Impact Fund, which enabled us to nearly double our freezer capacity. And while freezers don’t normally evoke emotional reactions in most people, I can share with you that our Open Hand team is ecstatic about this new addition. 

Also top of mind for me as I think about our future is our ongoing commitment to the Food is Medicine movement. The pandemic exposed huge gaps in our social safety net, and our advocacy efforts to educate policy leaders on the return on investment for home-delivered Medically-Tailored Meals and nutrition education appear to be paying off. To that end, I hope you will you take a moment to read about our most recent advocacy efforts here.

Lastly, I want to share that we miss our hundreds of volunteers who normally help us prep and pack our meals each day. COVID-19 robbed us of our ability and desire to have them join us inside our food production facility to lend their hands and hearts. Thank goodness our volunteers could still continue to help us deliver meals! Now that vaccines are being administered at a record pace, and we’ve all become much wiser about how we can keep each other safe through the use of masks, hand washing, and distancing, we are planning for the eventual (and much celebrated ) return of volunteers to our building. We not only have missed you but we also need you! More to come about our plans for your safe return. To quote a slogan from one of the hotel chain commercials, “We’ve kept the light on for you.”

With your ongoing support and through the tenacity of our staff and volunteers, we will continue to thrive and meet our commitments to the communities we serve. We will emerge from this pandemic a stronger and wiser organization poised to serve the nutrition needs of our clients for many years to come.

In good health,

A sincere thank you to each and every one of you who have supported us over the past year.

With your generous support, we’ve overcome tremendous challenges. Today, Open Hand Atlanta is not only better equipped to deal with this ongoing crisis, but we’ve innovated in order to battle the long-term barriers to our clients’ health and wellbeing exacerbated by the pandemic.

We thank you for your support. As essential as we are to the community, you are essential to us.

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