10 Strategies to Pivot to Emergency Meals for Vulnerable Populations

March 26, 2020

FareStart has been on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle, supporting the local pivot to increase capacity to serve up to 10,000 meals at FareStart daily for vulnerable populations. Catalyst Kitchens has captured the following best practices to share with our network.


  1. Establish daily check ins among leadership and teams. Since your day-to-day reality has changed drastically, it is necessary to connect daily to stay on track and respond to up to the minute needs.


  1. Create an interim organizational structure that allows your organization to nimblyrespond to urgent needs. Temporarily this means reassigning roles.


  1. Whenever possible, redeploy staff who work in suspended businesses impacted to support your increased community meals production for shelters and quarantine sites.


  1. Document and publish standard operating procedures for staff reference. This should include key mitigation strategies and procedures for positive cases of COVID-19 including contingency plans.


  1. Practice social distancing. While members are safeguarding students and volunteers by pausing these programs, non-kitchen staff should work remotely whenever possible to flatten the curve. Staggering shifts in the kitchen allows for social distancing and the ability to maximize capacity for meals.


  1. Lean in with city and county leadership to position your organization as a convener of emergency meals for your community. Play to your strengths. For CK members who provide community meals, scale your current operations as needed.  Even if your kitchen can’t take on all meal production needed, you are uniquely situated to partner with others in your community to subcontract and coordinate donated product and facilities.

Some funding sources include:

No Kid Hungry Coronavirus Grant Request

Meals 4 Kids Grants

 Giving Compass Emergency Funding Sources by state for COVID-19 Relief

COVID-19 Relief Funding Sources by state compiled by the Community Foundation


  1. Support your grads and the industry at large: Hire alumni and other displaced local workers to support this effort as it escalates.


  1. Partner with employers like MOD pizza to provide donated meals in your community.


  1. Track your revenue losses and document your activities so you can create a strong case statement for funders on a monthly basis to support your work reducing food insecurity for vulnerable populations.


  1. Communicate and share your efforts. Video messaging through social media or email campaigns can quickly capture your efforts and is easy for others to consume. Don’t forget to add a donation button to your websites.


Our members are on the front lines of efforts to feed vulnerable populations and those insecurely housed during shelter in place orders. As the situations continues to evolve, our team is building resources for members and fellow nonprofits providing community meals and seeking emergency funding to serve their communities.

Members, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page for more resources through Catalyst Kitchens and external sources. Keep an eye on our website and blog for more resources in the coming weeks. 


Blog Category: 

Community Engagement

Renee Martin

Renée got her entrepreneurial experience in the (insanely) fast moving digital media sector where she launched and developed several startups. After that she pivoted to be a leadership consultant to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. As Director, Renée oversees Catalyst Kitchens as a whole. She is responsible for social enterprise sustainability and program impact for both membership and consulting.