Update on Food & Friends’ Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

- March 27, 2020

With your continued support and encouragement, we’ve made it through another uncertain week. Yesterday I held a town hall-style videoconference and answered questions about everything that’s happening right now at Food & Friends. I appreciated the thoughtful questions and thank everyone who participated. If you were unable to participate, you can watch the video here:

 

 

Moving forward, I have some important volunteer updates to share. As you know, we paused volunteer operations this week so that our team could regroup.

Next week, we will reopen to volunteers for delivery only. Programmatically, delivery is our highest need and also allows volunteers to assist without having to be in such close proximity to others. Delivery volunteers will pick up at 15-minute intervals and collect the food outside under the red awning.

Starting April 6, we will begin delivering Home-Delivered Meals once a week for the foreseeable future, rather than the prior 3-times per week schedule. Clients will continue to receive 18 meals every other day. We will continue to use our 11 specialized meal plans. Grocery clients will remain on their usual bi-weekly schedule.

Kitchen and packing volunteer shifts should resume the following week, but you will notice some changes. If you’ve volunteered recently, you’ve probably seen how challenging proper social distancing has been. We want to protect our volunteers and staff as much as our clients, so we have developed thorough work plans for each area of our operation moving forward. The plans include:

  • Adjusted shift times to spread volunteers out across the day
  • Tight caps on the number of volunteers allowed in each shift and work area
  • Stations marked on the tables at least six feet apart to indicate where volunteers should stand as they work
  • Additional signage to remind everyone of the need to spread out

Thank you for your patience at this time and please look out for regular updates as volunteer operations pick back up again in the coming days. If you are healthy, not in a higher risk group, and able to volunteer, we still need your help, but please keep in mind that delivery remains our greatest need, and we’ll have limited kitchen shifts for the next several weeks. We’ve missed seeing our regular volunteers here, and we’re looking forward to the point when you’re back at Food & Friends with us. If you would like to help through other means, please donate to support our pandemic response efforts. Your generosity is a powerful force for good in this unsettled time.

 

Previous Update from March 23rd

We are all facing unprecedented challenges and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your steadfast and generous support. If you have volunteered, donated or asked how we are doing these last few weeks, I say thank you. You are what keeps us going.

I’m writing today with several important updates:

  • This past weekend, Food & Friends decided to proactively deliver two-week supplies of food to our clients. An amazing group of volunteers sprang into action on short notice and helped us to deliver over 2,000 boxes of shelf-stable food items, as well as thousands of bags of groceries. It was a monumental task and we couldn’t have done it without the incredible volunteers and donors who have supported our pandemic response efforts.

 

  • Because each of our clients now has a sufficient supply of healthy food for two weeks, we are taking this week to make further adjustments that will improve the safety of everyone involved. Food & Friends is temporarily suspending volunteer activities for one week. Volunteers are a vital resource and this week will give our staff time to rework our operations and deliveries in order to maintain greater social distancing.

 

  • I know you care deeply about the mission of Food & Friends and likely have questions during this uncertain time. I will be holding a town hall-style videoconference on Thursday, March 26th at 1 pm and encourage you to join. You can register here. Please submit questions in advance to our Communications Director, Abigail Seiler.

 

  • Finally, I want to let you know that several Food & Friends events have been affected by the outbreak. Dining Out For Life has sadly been canceled. We will look for opportunities to hold a similar style event in the future but we realize our friends in the restaurant industry are facing hardships of their own. Our annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner & Awards has also been postponed. We will still celebrate our incredible volunteers in small ways next month and will reschedule the dinner for a later date.

Rallying together as a community to face a crisis is the Food & Friends way and it’s exactly how we’ll get through this pandemic. Together. Please look out for more updates as our volunteer operations return to action and don’t forget to join us on Thursday for our town hall. Thank you for your support and keep being the wonderful neighbors that you are.

 

Previous Update from March 13th

Given the quickly evolving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, I am writing to provide you with an update to our community. Food & Friends’ service is vital to the health and well-being of people living with serious illness. Many of our clients have no other food option without our deliveries and are the most at-risk if forced to leave their homes. Therefore, we are taking the following steps to meet their need:

  • Food & Friends has been designated an essential service by the District of Columbia, meaning that our operations are considered critical and will not be suspended by current or future emergency orders. This will allow us to continue our life-sustaining deliveries to our clients.
  • We are preparing to deliver additional shelf-stable food items should social distancing recommendations or diminished staff and volunteer capacity limit our ability to safely maintain our normal schedule. I will update you and our broader community if and when any service changes go into effect. For now, our operations are continuing with the support of staff and volunteers who are well trained in best practices for reducing the spread of infection.
  • If you are an existing volunteer and are in good health, please consider volunteering in the next few weeks. We have experienced a large number of volunteer cancellations and urgently need volunteers through the end of March. As always, please stay home if you are unwell.

Food & Friends was founded during the AIDS epidemic to serve those who were sick and isolated because of their illness. We are committed to helping our seriously ill neighbors in need even through these trying times. Please follow our website and social medial channels for real-time updates.

I am grateful to you and so many community members who have stepped up to provide additional financial and volunteer support and thank everyone for their diligence in keeping our clients healthy and nourished. If you would like to contribute to our daily operations, you can do so here.

I will continue to update you on a regular basis. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Carrie Stoltzfus, MPH
Executive Director, Food & Friends

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