2021 was a record-setting year for Open Heart Kitchen as the Tri-Valley nonprofit served its highest number of meals ever -- 2,033,379 -- to those in need in the area.
Executive Director Heather Greaux noted that the nonprofit's prepared meals and grocery care package distribution programs were especially vital last year for community members during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"Ensuring access to nutritious food is more important than ever -- especially for people who are unhoused, families and seniors living on a tight budget," she said in a statement. "Our clients are continuing to feel the effects of the pandemic and it's critical that we continue to provide nutritious food to these vulnerable populations."
"We aim to provide the most nutritious food possible to improve people's health and well-being and we have revised our menus to offer a variety of entrees that reflect the culture of our clients," Greaux added. "When people are facing hunger, it's much harder to make healthy food choices, but they can always count on Open Heart Kitchen."
As part of its response during the pandemic, the nonprofit expanded its "Street Outreach Program" to deliver hot meals and bagged breakfasts to unhoused people six days a week -- an effort that feeds about 65 people among 17 locations.
The Open Heart Kitchen "Hot Meal Program" continues to provide meals free-of-charge Mondays through Fridays from 1-3 p.m. at the Robert Livermore Community Center, along with the "Senior Meals Program" at the senior centers in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin.
With plans underway for the start of construction on its Vineyard 2.0 project, Open Heart Kitchen last April moved its production kitchen to Danville temporarily until the new kitchen and dining room at the Vineyard 2.0 site on North Livermore Avenue in Livermore is complete.
Set to get off the ground this spring, the Vineyard 2.0 project includes permanent, supportive housing and other services such as temporary overnight shelter, mailboxes, showers, laundry and free hot meals provided by Open Heart Kitchen, according to development director Denise Bridges.
"We couldn't achieve this level of service without the support of our donors and volunteers," Bridges said. "As we enter into a new year, we are full of gratitude and re-energized to help those facing food insecurity. The generosity of individuals, funders, and businesses in this region leads to more people being helped. With our new kitchen and dining room at Vineyard 2.0, we will have the flexibility to meet future needs."
To learn more about the nonprofit's programs, visit openheartkitchen.org.