On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked seniors, as well as individuals with chronic conditions, to self-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. With that, and the advent of San Francisco’s three-week lockdown that went into effect Monday, questions around how at-risk populations will acquire meals have become paramount.
Earlier this week, Newsom indicated that the state has "been working for days" to answer questions around meal procurement, but he did not provide specifics, indicating that he hoped to have a plan to unveil soon.
Newsom did allude to "strike teams that will support the social safety net and those services for our seniors," run by Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, LAist reported.
While it is yet unknown what role the noncommercial foodservice industry might play in feeding the approximately 5.3 million Californians who are 65 or older, Newsom said that he expected senior day centers and other facilities, as well as the commercial restaurant industry, to play a part.
"What is really important is to understand what a massive logistics operation it would be to take a formerly pretty self-sustaining group of people and expand an already stretched safety net to cover that group of people too," said Ashley McCumber, executive director of Meals on Wheels San Francisco, which serves hot meals each week to 3,600 people who are older than 60 or disabled.
Partnering with private home delivery companies could bridge the gap. McCumber said DoorDash approached her last week to explore ways it could support Meals on Wheels San Francisco, for example.
Meanwhile, restaurants across the country are stepping up to help feed their communities. For example, Everytable, a globally influenced eatery with multiple locations in greater Los Angeles, has established the Everytable Helpline to assist those having difficulty getting food. The restaurant encourages calls from seniors who need food brought to their homes, healthcare centers and schools where foodservice has been disrupted, and businesses that want their employees to have access to healthy meals. Everytable will deliver, if needed, and has pickup service at its grab-and-go stores. In addition, customers can sign up for a subscription service that ensures regular meal deliveries.
Newsom said he is not ordering California restaurants to close, partly because they could be included the state's strategy to deliver food to people in self-isolation. "We want to expand the points of access to get those deliveries. Restaurants by definition provide those points of access," Newsom said. "So having an organized construct that allows delivery of hot, prepared and nutritious food within an existing infrastructure we think is appropriate to this moment."