Volume 1, Number 3
Open Heart Kitchen Serves Hope and Love
By Tina Hansen
Our lives revolve around food, it is symbolic, part of our culture, traditions, and memories and is a link that binds people together in significant ways. Food means different things to people all over the world, but one thing everyone can agree on about food is that when it is made with love, it tastes better.
For some in our region, food is simply about survival and nourishment because they face food insecurity as a daily battle. Open Heart Kitchen, located in Pleasanton, provides the community with the best-tasting food because they make and serve it with love to those who are struggling and need food assistance.
Open Heart Kitchen serves as the lifeline for people with food insecurity by providing them with nutritious, prepared meals free of charge. They feed more than 351,000 meals annually and rotates serving locations throughout the week to cover the entire Tri-Valley, including Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore.
Open Heart Kitchen works with more than a dozen local food pantries and various nonprofits whose mission it is to promote nutrition and hunger relief. Currently, Open Heart Kitchen serves five days per week and hopes to expand hot meal service to seven days per week by this summer.
California produces nearly half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, and according to the California Association of Food Banks, one in eight Californians currently struggle with food insecurity. Food insecurity is the occasional or constant lack of access to the food people need for a healthy, active life.
For children, food insecurity can have serious, long-term effects on their physical and mental health resulting in poor school attendance and performance. Currently, one in four children in California may go to bed hungry each night. This puts California at the 19th highest child food insecurity rate in the nation.
In early February, a fire destroyed one of the churches used as a storage facility. It was also the site where bags were assembled for Open Heart Kitchen's Children's Weekend Bag Lunch Program.
“Our Children's Weekend Bag Lunch program provides a secure source of nutrition for schools kids who rely on the free\reduced lunch at school during the week but may not have enough to eat over the weekends,” said Heather Greaux Executive Director of Open Heart Kitchen.
The church was an integral part of Open Heart Kitchen’s operations and the community stepped up to help so there was no interruption in their meal services, but only temporally. Open Heart Kitchen is now seeking a suitable and permanent solution for serving meals, assembling box lunches and for delivery and storage of dry goods as well refrigerated and frozen goods.
“We have found temporary locations for our services and are now looking for a new, permanent home. We have started a campaign, the Fire Response Fund, to help fund our relocation. A new permanent space is going to be costly and we are reaching out to the community for support,” said Heather Greaux Executive Director of Open Heart Kitchen.
Open Heart Kitchen generates most of the money needed for their operations through fundraisers and donations. Last year, for example, they raised $23,000 to feed the hungry of the Tri-Valley at the 2nd Annual Fundraiser featuring the Livermore Valley’s best Cabernets held at McGrail Vineyards and Winery in Livermore on August 27th.
To learn more about Open Heart Kitchen's programs and how to support the organization, please visit their website at www.openheartkitchen.org.