An article in The Independent on March 26, “County Has First Coronavirus Death; Livermore Reports an Active Case,” focused on an Open Heart Kitchen volunteer. On Wednesday, March 18, the Alameda County Department of Public Health confirmed a positive test for COVID-19 in an Open Heart Kitchen volunteer who worked at Asbury United Methodist Church. This individual is now in good condition and is expected to have a full recovery. This individual was not involved in preparing food at the main production kitchen, and has not been present in the Open Heart Kitchen workplace since self-reporting the potential exposure on March 17.

All staff and volunteers who worked with the volunteer at the church were notified and instructed to contact their healthcare providers for further guidance, and were placed under a 14-day self-quarantine for extra precaution. All are in good spirits and doing fine.

While counting confirmed cases of COVID-19 may help the public stay informed, we should focus on the many nonprofits and cities that are playing a crucial role in providing support services to our most vulnerable neighbors.

And who are the most vulnerable? They are families with children who rely on school meals, the unemployed, the homeless, seniors, and individuals with diabetes, heart disease, lung problems, and other chronic health conditions.

Public health experts say the key to stemming the COVID-19 pandemic is for people to shelter in place and stay home. But what if you don’t have a home or a way to get enough food for yourself and your family? Food insecurity impacts these vulnerable populations, especially as the cost of food, housing, and health care continues to rise.

Open Heart Kitchen had to change operations in a very short time as the escalating COVID-19 situation put many people in dire need of meals. We have continued our senior meal and hot meal programs without interruption. Though our sit-down dining service is temporarily suspended, we are offering free meals for pick up. These meals are produced and distributed by staff from the cities of Livermore, Dublin, and Pleasanton. For example, staff from the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District work daily with Open Heart Kitchen to ensure that lunches are ready and available for pick-up, Monday through Friday, in front of the Robert Livermore Community Center. For more information, please visit our website at openheartkitchen.org.

Fortunately, school districts throughout Alameda County have continued their lunch programs for students. Food banks and social service and health agencies are all on the frontlines of helping people in need, often serving more clients now with less staff and volunteers. Many other nonprofits have had to close their offices, cancel fundraising events, and lay off staff until further notice. As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, it is imperative that donors continue or increase their support for nonprofits and that our community never turns a blind eye to the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. How we respond to today’s challenges will define us as a community for years to come. I’m encouraged by the compassion, kindness, and empathy that I see in so many of our volunteers and staff every day. There is no doubt that this is an unprecedented crisis, and Open Heart Kitchen remains committed to feeding the hungry, as it has been doing in the Tri-Valley for the past 25 years. I hope you will keep Open Heart Kitchen and our community’s most vulnerable populations in mind as you seek ways to be of service and connect with your fellow neighbors.