We Are Open!
Since early March, and the declaration of shelter in place, the Haight Ashbury Food Program has been learning, adjusting our standard practices for virus safety, and procuring safety equipment for staff and volunteers. This has allowed us to remain open for food distribution at this critical time of need for many of our neighbors.
We Are Adjusting!
We are learning and making adjustments every week to the way we normally do our work. Some of the learning will have long-term benefit for us as an organization. Other things we are learning are helpful but challenging! So far, we have made the following adjustments, which we hope reassures our clients and supporters:
- Sending our at-risk volunteers home to shelter in place. We miss them, but their health and safety in the long term is more important than seeing them in the short term.
- Assessing and adjusting our food delivery, sorting, and distribution operation for social-distancing. We have always worn and changed gloves regularly as well as other safe food handling practices. Now, volunteers are required to wear masks and gloves during their shifts, and gloves are changed regularly. We have also moved our entire food sorting operation to the parking lot of our shared facility, to enable social distancing, and made many adjustments to how we do this so volunteers can work solo, in small groups, and distant from one another. We are learning how to adjust this better each week.
- Recruiting new volunteers. We need volunteers to support the effort. It is best for us to have a small group of regular volunteers who we can teach this new system for the time being. School and corporate groups, which we normally LOVE and APPRECIATE are not ideal at this time.
- Using plastic/paper bags. We usually encourage the use of reusable bags, however due to health department recommendations, we are distributing groceries in plastic or paper bags. These can be reused in other ways, but for now, not advised.
- Pre-assembling grocery bags. We pride ourselves on our farmer’s market-style shopping process, but due to health department recommendations, we have opted to pre-assemble grocery bags for our clients. We pre-assemble a specific number of bags with roughly the same items, and then ask clients if they want each of the 4 to 5 bags each week (pre-cooked items like wraps, pre-made salads in one bag, and then bags for fruit, vegetables, root vegetables, dessert and bread products, and meats or cheese/alternatives for vegetarians). This way of distributing foods reduces choice for our clients, but speeds up the process of distribution and lessens a great deal of close contact even if it is more work on the part of the volunteers.
We Are Proud of Our Volunteers and Staff!
So many of our “regular” volunteers have really stepped up to help, stay longer, and help in other ways. We could not be more grateful. We have also had an amazing influx of new volunteers and volunteer interest since this crisis began. We appreciate you, too, even if we have not met you yet!
Do not let me get started about Robert Milles, our Pantry Coordinator, who has made it his personal mission that we not miss a beat or a single mouth that comes our way in need. He has been a tireless warrior (and to be honest, worrier, in all the best and most important ways) to keep everyone safe and healthy while we do what needs doing!