At FAR, our four soup kitchens and Gyumri Atinizian Senior Center provide a primary source of food and nutrition to many who would otherwise go hungry without them. So, when the Armenian government recently declared a state of emergency and ordered the country to shelter-in-place, we knew that shutting down our soup kitchens, even temporarily, was not an option.
But we did take action. Since the beginning of March, our project staff have changed standard procedures to better protect everyone. For the majority of beneficiaries, food is now packaged for take away only. Cooks have lunch ready by 10am so pick up times can be staggered to avoid long lines. Those who do wait in a short line for food must stand at least six feet apart from others. Before receiving their to-go meals, beneficiaries must clean their hands with alcohol-based sanitizers, which FAR provides.
The small minority who do not have a way to safely transport and eat their food at home are permitted to eat in the cafeteria. Just one person is permitted at each table, which typically fit 6-8 people.
Kitchen and dining areas are disinfected every day after the meal is over. Everything from the door handles to the chairs are sterilized. And of course all staff, including the cooks, must wear masks and gloves at all times.
Finally, we’ve also arranged meal delivery for selected elderly beneficiaries to avoid some of the most vulnerable from taking the unnecessary risk of going outside.
“This program is a lifeline for so many. Taking action to make sure this service is still available was our only option,” said Project Manager Rafik Martirosyan.