Responding to

"Believe in yourself.
You are braver than you think, more talented than you know,
and capable of more than you imagine." 

Roy T. Bennett
Kitchen Angels will continue operations under the state's newest Public Health Order which takes effect today.

"Homeless shelters, food banks, and other services providing care to indigent populations" continue to be defined as essential services. Kitchenality, however, will suspend operations for the duration of the current health order.

Volunteers who need one of our “essential service” badges may pick one up during their shift and keep it in their car.

With the number of COVID-19 infections surging in the state, each of us must be especially vigilant. The ultimate goal of the order is to keep as many people out of the hospital as possible. For our clients, staff and volunteers, that means keeping our risk of exposure as low as possible. We are serving more and more clients who find themselves needing to quarantine for a wide variety of reasons.

Behave as if you have the virus and treat everyone you meet as if they, too, have the virus.

Remember, no one is immune.
Generally speaking, and in spite of our immediate circumstances, humans are hopeful creatures.

Kitchen Angels was founded on optimism and hope and these traits have always been part of our genetic makeup. For nearly three decades, I've seen the extraordinary healing power that cooking for and feeding some of the most fragile members of our community has on both volunteers and clients. The simple acts of giving and receiving are two of the things that help give our lives meaning and purpose. They also give us hope. And during extraordinarily stressful times such as we're living through, finding meaning and purpose, and consequently hope, are really important. So, in spite of the current rise in infections and the reinstatement of the state's "shelter in place" request, I continue to remain hopeful and optimistic. We have the skills to get through the pandemic. We simply need to use those skills.

Charles Richard Snyder, an American psychologist who specialized in positive psychology during the 1980s and 90s, described hope as "our ability to walk certain paths to a desired outcome." Hope, he said, helps us stay motivated when circumstances become challenging.

To feel hopeful, he explained that we need to focus our thoughts on our desired goals and we need to develop strategies in advance in order to achieve those goals. We also have to be motivated enough to plow through the challenges that we will inevitably encounter along the way. The more we believe in our own ability to achieve these things, the greater the likelihood we'll feel optimistic and hopeful.

But hopefulness is not simply thinking positive thoughts. Hope requires work. It's like a muscle. And like most muscles, if we haven't exercised it in a while it can be uncomfortable when we start using it again. Hope is also not a mood. It’s an action. It’s behaving as if there will be a future even when that future seems ridiculously out of reach.
A picture taken from the Swiss alpine resort of Zermatt shows the Matterhorn illuminated with a message from Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter "as a sign of hope and solidarity" during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hopefulness also requires accurate information as well as optimism. But that optimism shouldn't be naive. Michael J. Fox, the actor who has been living with Parkinson's for nearly 30 years, suggests "optimism is informed hope." His book No Time Like the Future is described as "a thinking person’s book about how you continue to find meaning through hard things.”

That was our experience when Kitchen Angels first began. We had a lot to learn in order to serve our clients and safely prepare and deliver meals. We had hope and we were optimistic we could make a difference in their lives, but we also had to have solid and useful information.

Living through this pandemic requires that we have solid and useful information. But now, it's not just our clients we need to serve, it's everybody. That means it's critical we know which activities put us and others at the most risk for COVID-19 and then make responsible choices. And with the rate of infections surging across the country, hospitals running out of capacity, and dire predictions for the winter, it's pretty easy to lose hope.

But the news isn't completely gloomy.

For example, a recent study found that a small minority of places where people go frequently account for a large majority of coronavirus infections, at least in big cities. The study, published in Nature, suggests that reducing the maximum occupancy in restaurants, gyms, cafes, and hotels, can slow the spread of COVID-19 substantially. "Our model predicts that capping points-of-interest at 20% of maximum occupancy can reduce the infections by more than 80%, but we only lose around 40% of the visits when compared to a full reopening with usual maximum occupancy," Jure Leskovec, an author of the study and associate professor of computer science at Stanford University, said. "Our work highlights that it doesn't have to be all or nothing." The study's authors acknowledged that more work is needed but, "these findings could have a valuable role in guiding policy decisions on how to reopen society safely and minimize the harm caused by movement restrictions."

For me, at least, this type of information gives me a bit of hope. It means we're learning. And as the New York Times editorial board wrote yesterday, "there are clear reasons to be hopeful. Doctors and scientists know much more about how this coronavirus spreads, and about how to treat the disease it causes. Drugs and long-heralded vaccines are coming through the pipeline."

Pfizer's announcement last week that its vaccine was showing promise also gives me hope. While I'm not so naive as to believe everything they say in their press release and, as this article from Rolling Stone points out, there are still a lot of unanswered questions as well as issues to address, it's one of the first real pieces of evidence that vaccine researchers are making progress. In fact, eleven vaccines are in late-stage trials, the New York Times reported late last week, including four in the United States. The writers suggest that Pfizer’s progress could bode well for Moderna, another vaccine manufacturer, whose vaccine uses similar technology as Pfizer's. Eventually, we'll have more choices in our arsenal of COVID prevention strategies than just deciding which face mask to wear.

Essentially, I'm an optimistic person and I try to ground my optimism in reality. I see daily the kindness that people can show to each other when I watch Kitchen Angels volunteers cook, package, and line up in their vehicles to collect meals to deliver to our clients. I'm touched by the care that I see going into every meal. But I'm also not blind to the cruelty I've seen play out across the country over the past few years and especially the past nine months. The vitriol and harsh rhetoric have caused me more than a few sleepless nights. Nevertheless, I believe the pandemic can teach us more about the importance of caring for each rather than be the cause of lasting damage. We simply have to be open to its lessons.

Kitchen Angels came along when many people had lost all hope of survival. But, through action and sustained hard work, even when things felt hopeless, hope was one of the side-effects our volunteers gave to our first clients. It still is.

It's also something we can give to each other.

The experts tell us that the winter is going to be rough as the current surge in infections across the country seems to be foreshadowing. No doubt the holidays will prove difficult, too. But I'm confident we'll get through both. And I'm hopeful we'll learn some useful things along the way so that, as a community, we're a little better for having lived through the experience.

In the meantime, thank you for doing everything you can to keep yourself and others as safe as possible. Each of you is an important member of the Kitchen Angels family.

In gratitude,
Thank you for all your vigilance. We want you to stay safe,
healthy, and informed.