We won’t let our clients down.
JUNE 3, 2020 UPDATE:
As Georgia continues to struggle with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Open Hand continues to meet the increased demand for our services – both in our community and in others throughout the state. I have been so proud of the way Open Hand has stepped up during these challenging circumstances to ensure that our clients have access to the healthy meals they so desperately rely on. We quickly and effectively adapted our business model to enable us to serve as many vulnerable, food insecure individuals during this pandemic as possible, and below we highlight a few more areas where Open Hand has been able to make the greatest impact during the last two months:
- In just the last two months alone, demand for our home-delivered meals has increased by an unprecedented 26% — amounting to an additional 75,000 meals Open Hand has provided over that period. Thanks to our wonderful supporters like you, and to our incredible operations and distribution teams, we were able to meet this increased demand.
- As mentioned in my last update, we began to ship meals to rural counties in southwest Georgia in dire need of our services. And we recently expanding our statewide footprint into middle and north Georgia. It’s extremely gratifying to be able to reach so many more individuals living with nutrition-sensitive chronic disease, many of whom struggled with food insecurity even before the COVID-19 crisis. We are currently assessing the needs of other rural counties and how we may be able to provide them with some measure of support.
- Open Hand continues to partner with various city, county and community-based agencies throughout metro-Atlanta to help address rampant food insecurity brought on by the need for seniors and medically-fragile individuals to continue to shelter in place, and the severe economic impact of COVID-19 on our communities. One such partnership is with Atlanta non-profit The Common Market through the USDA’s Farmers to Families food box program that will provide Open Hand with 250 weekly boxes of fresh, locally grown produce that we will in turn deliver to food insecure families.
- Our Cooking Matters team is currently forging another Farmers to Families collaboration with long-time partner Mercy Care and the Latin American Association to address the dramatic increase in food insecurity along the Buford Highway corridor. Through this partnership, we hope to be able to provide another 250-500 boxes of fresh produce to these at-risk families.
- Open Hand worked with long-time supporter Dr. Jim Braude to help address the needs of those who are either homebound or forced to shelter in place for an extended period of time, but that may not qualify for home-delivered meals. Jim created the Step Up to the Plate Fund to support these especially vulnerable individuals and families – helping them overcome the social determinants of health that have adversely affected their access to proper nutrition during this critical period of time. To date, Jim and his friends and colleagues have raised nearly $20,000 in support of this initiative.
- We are proud to report that, as of this month, Open Hand will activate our partnership with select Kaiser Permanente Urgent Care Clinics in Gwinnett, Cobb and south Fulton counties to provide Medically-Tailored Meals for their clients while they receive treatment at these centers.
Even while the health effects of COVID-19 are being measured and reported and our country continues to “open up”, the impact of the pandemic on our operations will have a long-term effect. We will continue to follow strict CDC guidelines for the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and clients, and non-essential staff will continue to work remotely until we feel it is safe to bring them back to campus. In addition, we will continue to utilize our volunteers for meal delivery only for the foreseeable future.
As always, please feel free to reach out to us with any questions and concerns, and thank you for your continued support of Open Hand and the clients we serve. We couldn’t do it without you!
APRIL 29, 2020 UPDATE:
We wanted to provide you with an update on how Open Hand is continuing to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis. First and foremost, we have been incredibly proud of how our dedicated employees have responded to this challenging time. We are especially appreciative for our front line team members who are not able to perform their work functions at home, but instead must come to our campus each day to keep us operational and help us meet our commitment to the community. These individuals are true heroes and exemplify what it means to be brave and caring in the face of a crisis when our services are needed more than ever.
MEETING THE INCREASED NEEDS OF OUR COMMUNITY
Open Hand’s hard-earned reputation for responding quickly to the needs of our community has brought about many additional opportunities for us to serve even more of the city’s most vulnerable during this crisis. We wanted to share with you ways in which Open Hand is continuing to rise to meet this challenge:
- Last week, 14 southwest Georgia counties – including the first COVID-19 hotspot in the state – asked Open Hand to provide emergency meals to 379 additional food insecure individuals. We are honored that our reputation as the premier home-delivered meal provider in the state of Georgia has allowed us to be the first to respond to this need. Meal deliveries began on Monday, April 27. These meals are frozen and shipped for local distribution, marking the first time Open Hand has extended our reach by shipping our meals statewide. When the crisis has subsided, we hope to build on this shipping distribution network so that we can continue to expand our statewide footprint.
- We continue to deliver 315 additional meals each day to Fulton County seniors at Big Bethel Village retirement and assisted living center to help ensure that all seniors at the facility continue to shelter in place.
- Open Hand is now providing an additional 350 meals to at-risk seniors in north Georgia through the Northwest Georgia Area Agency on Aging.
- We are currently assisting Hope Atlanta as they transition individuals living homelessness to temporary housing by providing meals each week.
- Recently, we were fortunate to be able to partner with Wellstar Health System to provide meals to patients who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and were released or still being treated for the virus. This enabled Wellstar to ensure that these patients had the nutrition they needed to continue to improve their health.
- Open Hand also delivered an additional 800 meals to food insecure seniors in Cobb County and stand ready should they require any future assistance.
- The reputation of our efficient distribution system has brought us an opportunity to partner with two local Atlanta restaurants to help them distribute hundreds of meals each week. Empire State South in Midtown is preparing meals which Open Hand delivers to Metro Atlanta YMCAs serving as food access sites for food insecure families. Murphy’s Restaurant in Virginia-Highlands is preparing meals which we are delivering to Piedmont Hospital for frontline staff who are battling the virus.
WE CAN’T LET OUR GUARD DOWN
As you know, last week Governor Kemp announced plans to allow for the re-opening of many businesses. However, it appears as though a vast majority of these businesses have chosen to wait to reopen based upon the current data, trends, and advice of healthcare experts and medical professionals.
Of course, our utmost priority will always be the safety and well-being of our staff, volunteers and clients. Therefore, Open Hand will continue to stay the course, and conduct our emergency operations with the knowledge that COVID-19 is still a grave threat that requires our extreme caution and adherence to strict preventative measures. While all of us are anxious to get back to business as usual, we must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves and each other.
We will continue to keep you updated as things progress, but in the meantime, as always, please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We are all in this together!
COVID-19 FINANCIAL IMPACT:
All of these changes of course mean additional unexpected costs as we work to meet the demand for our services. Your donation in any amount will go a long way in alleviating the immediate burden of these increased costs and help ensure that there is much less of a chance of our services being disrupted. Our priority is the health and safety of our clients as we make sure that they have what they need to make it through the coming weeks.
Details on the Emergency Meals Fund.
APRIL 6, 2020 UPDATE
As you can imagine, things have been rather challenging the past couple of weeks, but we’re encouraged and inspired by the resiliency of our Open Hand family. As an Essential Service Provider, we have quickly adapted our operations in order to stay the course as the infection rates in Georgia continue to rise rapidly.
Unprecedented Times Call For Immediate Action
We have had to carefully weigh every decision we’ve made in response to this crisis as we attempt to strike a balance between protecting the safety of our clients, staff and volunteers while continuing to live up to our commitment to provide meals to the most vulnerable in our community.
To that end, following are some of the measures we have taken to ensure that we will be there for our community throughout this crisis:
- A majority of the sanitization and disease prevention recommendations from the CDC have long been a part of our food safety practices. But given the nature of this insidious virus, we immediately enhanced our sanitization efforts across the campus, including the issuance of gloves, masks and hand sanitizer to all volunteer and staff delivery drivers. With physical/social distancing now our new norm, we suspended all of our nutrition education programming, with the exception of our telenutrition efforts.
- In order to practice an abundance of caution, we chose to temporarily limit volunteer opportunities to meal delivery only. We are fortunate to have an incredibly engaged and understanding core of volunteers, and they have quickly adapted and responded to this change in policy. We were heartened by our volunteers desire to get back to work in packing and culinary, but this was prudent and necessary to mitigate safety risks as much as possible.
- As an additional safety measure, we made the decision to limit our days of operation. In order to do so, we streamlined operations by limiting the variety of meals we produce, and opting to deliver meals frozen one week at a time – greatly reducing the number of deliveries to each client. The end goal is to make sure that no one misses a meal, while reducing interaction between our clients and those delivering to them. Fortunately, our clients and partners have been very appreciative of our efforts. We even have plans to utilize volunteers to communicate with clients via phone to help combat the effects of social isolation.
- In order to focus our efforts on supporting those most at risk, we made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend production for our social enterprise, Good Measure Meals. While this discontinues a critical revenue stream and the cash flow that helps us to operate, we simply could not provide the high level of product and service our GMM customers had come to expect in the face of this crisis. We are fortunate in that our customers have been overwhelmingly supportive and a majority have reassured us that they will be there for us when we are able to resume our GMM operations.
Weathering the Storm
As we work to project the financial implications this crisis will have on Open Hand’s operations, we know we are doing so without answers to a number of key questions. How long will this crisis last? How many more vulnerable individuals will we be asked to serve? How long will logistical challenges continue to affect the supply and ultimately, the cost of food? How will this crisis impact our philanthropic funding over time? How will we recoup the revenue lost by the postponement and/or cancellation of our major fundraising events?
While we cannot answer these questions with any degree of certainty, we do know there will continue to be increased demand for our services. And we project that the recession created by the pandemic may significantly affect philanthropic giving over time. But we are determined to do everything we can to offset any deficit that may result.
We are of course closely monitoring the Federal emergency funding streams as they emerge, and feel confident that we are well positioned to receive at least a measure of financial relief. In addition, we are collaborating with those Foundation partners seeking to help us address our immediate challenges and needs. We will also continue to communicate our needs to our most engaged stakeholders, and we are grateful that you and others who are equally as passionate about our work will continue to help us deliver on our mission.
Collaboration and Sharing Best Practices
Collaboration has always been at the core of our work, and thus during this crisis, we are working with community partners across the State and the Country to share resources, best practices and identify gaps in services. Our Executive Director, Matt Pieper, has agreed to serve on the Georgia Center for Nonprofits’ COVID-19 Coordinating Task Force, and we are participating in community-wide virtual Town Hall meetings hosted by United Way to identify gaps and coordinate services in our community. In addition, in our role as a founding member of the national Food Is Medicine Coalition, we’re in constant contact with nutrition leaders across the country to brainstorm solutions and share strategies for continued operations in the face of the crisis.
Food Is Love…and an Absolute Necessity
Open Hand is here for the most vulnerable in our community, just as we have been for the past 32 years. While we are facing an unprecedented challenge, our ability to pivot and adapt to meet it reassures us that, while we have a long road ahead of us, we will come out on the other side of this crisis stronger for having fought it with every ounce of our being.
We’ll continue to keep you informed and updated during this pandemic. As our community responds, we will continue to be front and center.
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