Open Heart Kitchen is feeding the hungry in the Tri Valley
PNR members learned at our July 24th virtual meeting that a recent $1000 grant from PNR Foundation is helping the Open Heart Kitchen address a dramatic increase in the demand for food assistance in the Tri-Valley because of the coronavirus public health emergency.
Denise Bridges, the non-profit group’s development director, informed the club on how the grant enabled the kitchen to expand children’s bag lunch.
Overall, Open Heart Kitchen served more than 50,000 meals in the first three months of the public health emergency, she said. Its Hot Meals program has been modified to now welcome anyone in need with daily curbside pickup. No reservations nor proof of income are required. The PNR Foundation grant was used to help expand the weekday Children’s Bag Lunch program to also cover weekends.
Over 400 more seniors signed up of Open Heart’s Senior Meals program in the past two months at various senior centers in Pleasanton, Dublin, and Livermore for lunches and for dinners at the Ridgeview Commons Senior Housing Project in Pleasanton, Bridges said.
Open Heart’s outreach program is helping homeless people who are living in encampments along the I-580 freeway and elsewhere in the Tri-Valley region. Bridges said outreach teams are delivering breakfast and lunch six days a week to the needy who are living under freeway underpasses and along arroyos. These deliveries are often the only sources of food and safe drinking water for the recipients, she said.
Bridges stressed there are probably many more people in the Tri-Valley Valley with invisible needs that have yet to reach out for social services.
“This crisis is causing them to seek food assistance for the first time,” she said. “There is a stigma that comes up when we talk to our clients. It is a crisis right now.”
To meet the increased demand, Open Heart Kitchen is spending far more than the $1.6 million that financed its programs last year. It faces added pressure from the need to expand its paid staff to replace over 360 volunteers who were retired because of Covid-19 safety concerns. And, it is looking forward to construction to begin this year on a new main kitchen at Vineyard Fellowship Church in Livermore.
For more information or for individual donations, see the Open Heart Kitchen website (www.openheart.org).